How does fluoride prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride prevents tooth decay by making your tooth enamel more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria in your mouth. When fluoride contacts teeth, it turns some of your enamel into a substance called fluorapatite which is more resistant to bacterial acid. Fluoride comes from fluorite, a naturally occurring mineral which is found in the earth’s crust. It naturally occurs in many foods and in water. Fluoride may be obtained from toothpaste, mouth rinses, supplements, well water, city water that has had fluoride added and various food sources.
Carefully controlled studies have determined the optimal level of fluoride that should be added to some city’s controlled water supplies to have the maximal effect in reducing decay. Well-water should be tested to make sure that it is safe and does not contain abnormal amounts of any substance.
Community water fluoridation programs
More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. Many cities add substances to the water that help to improve water quality and flavor, but fluoride is added due to its benefit in reducing tooth decay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Community water fluoridation as one of the 10 greatest achievements in public health of the 20thcentury. This simple, safe and inexpensive public health intervention has contributed to a remarkable decline in tooth decay in the United States.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Public Health Association (APHA), the U.S. Surgeon General and the World Health Organization (WHO) all endorse community water fluoridation. For more information regarding the history of fluoridation, facts, research and references, please see this document Fluoridation Facts from the American Dental Association (ADA).