Fluoride is in the right place at the right time to make a positive impact on your teeth, one official says.
“By being in the right place at the right time, fluoride can stop the attack of the tooth’s surface and it can make it stronger than it was before,” said William Bailey, a dental officer with the Centers for Disease Control.
Bailey, who focuses much of his energy on fluoride issues, said fluoride works in two ways to help your teeth.
When teeth are developing under the surface, he said fluoride works to make the enamel stronger.
Both the CDC and the American Dental Association agree that ingestion of fluoride helps to build stronger teeth.
“Fluorides ingested regularly during the time when teeth are developing are deposited throughout the entire tooth surface and provide longer lasting protection than those applied topically,” the CDC’s Web site states.
Even after the adult teeth have pushed through the surface, Bailey said the ingestion of fluoride still helps to protect teeth and prevent cavities.
Fluoride tablets and fluoridated water both add fluoride to a person’s saliva, which then helps to coat the teeth with fluoride.
Fluoride also goes into the plaque that builds up on teeth, helping to reverse the negative effects of plaque, which causes cavities.
Every time a person drinks in fluoride, Bailey said more fluoride is added to the reservoir helping to fight off the plaque. Fluoride helps to replace the calcium and phosphate that the plaque is taking off the teeth to cause cavities.
“So teeth are always in this demineralization and remineralization process,” Bailey said. “That’s why you have to have fluoride throughout the day.”
He said fluoride in toothpaste doesn’t stay in the mouth as you rinse it out each time you brush.
“By drinking water throughout the day and by drinking processed beverages with fluoride, you can resupply the fluoride in your plaque,” Bailey said.
Being in the right place at the right time means that fluoride is only there to help and doesn’t hurt the human body, he said.
According to the Nebraska law, only one part per million of fluoride would be added to the city’s water.
“It’s very, very low levels,” Bailey said. “And as far as it having any adverse health effect, we base our science on the weight of all the studies that have ever been done.”
He said these peer-reviewed studies have determined that fluoride is safe and effective in the prevention of cavities.“
By that, we mean no one has ever associated fluoride — based on weight of science — with adverse health affects,” Bailey said. “There’s no compelling evidence that fluoride hurts people.”
He said there have been studies over the last 60 years that support the statements that fluoride is safe.
There are some studies out there that state there can be adverse side effects with the ingestion of fluoride; however, he said these cases need to be replicated in more than one incident in one place for it to be good science.
“There’s a lot of criteria that we hold up to the science,” he said.
Both the CDC and the ADA support Bailey’s claims that fluoride, in small amounts, is safe for human consumption and does not cause adverse effects.
In fact, Bailey said there are no rare diseases or illnesses a person could have that would cause them to become even more sick if they ingest fluoride.
“A study from National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences and confirmed by the EPA, confirmed that currently allowed fluoride levels in drinking water do not pose a risk for health problems such as cancer, kidney failure or bone disease,” according to the ADA’s “Fluoridation Facts.”
Adverse health issues are addressed in a number of questions in “Fluoridation Facts,” including bone health, cancer growth, inhibition of enzyme activity, thyroid gland activity, hypersensitivity allergies, genetic problems, reproductive issues and Down syndrome, among other health issues.
The ADA proceeded to discredit each of those claims including 28 other health problems ranging from Alzheimer’s disease and low IQs to skin conditions and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
In answering a question about the likeliness of these health problems being caused by fluoride, the answer states, “The possibility of any adverse health effects from continuous low-level consumption of fluoride has been and continues to be extensively studied.”
Bailey said fluoride is safe not only for adults, but also for babies.
“In fact, we don’t even say that babies can’t have fluoride,” he said. “They’re in no greater risk than they were before with fluoridated water.”
He said the issue of babies and fluoridated water all comes down to those babies who are fed exclusively powdered baby formula.
Over the years, Bailey said the amount of fluoride in the powdered formula has been reduced, while the amount of fluoride in the water stays the same.
He said some people were concerned that babies were receiving more fluoride than the level developed by the National Institute of Medicine.
“However, we don’t believe there are any adverse health affects. None have ever been shown,” Bailey said.
He said the only thing that may happen is these babies may have a higher chance of getting a minor case of enamel fluorosis, which can cause discoloration of the teeth. Severe cases of enamel fluorosis can cause marred and pitted teeth.
Bailey said the chances of a baby ending up with enamel fluorosis as an adult from drinking powdered formula with fluoridated water are very low.
“Babies are at no greater risk today than they have been for generations from drinking formula mixed with fluoride,” he said.
For more information about the effects of fluoride on babies and adults and other fluoride facts, visit www.cdc.gov/fluoridation.