Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally occurring in water and in some foods. The mineral is an important one for human consumption, as it plays an active role in preventing tooth decay. When fluoride is in the mouth, tooth enamel demineralizes more slowly in general, but it remineralizes quickly when a cavity begins to form.
In industrialized countries, cavities are a major public health concern. Due to adverse eating habits and improper tooth care, most children and almost all adults have had a cavity at some time in their life. The best approach for reducing cavities is a regimen of proper and frequent brushing, daily flossing, and consuming a diet low in sweets and other sugary substances. But getting fluoride provides a crucial added benefit – getting it in your system should be even easier than brushing your teeth twice a day.
Most people in the United States get their fluoride needs met by drinking tap water, which the government and local municipalities have been treating with fluoride for decades. There really is nothing to lose – and plenty to gain – by drinking tap water. It is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the bottled water alternative, it is clean and always accessible, and it provides us with a necessary, low-level dose of fluoride. If you’re a heavy bottled water or soda drinker, there are many reasons for giving tap water a chance.
Tap water, not to mention, can provide other beneficial minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Even if you drink tap water but filter it through a water softener, you may be losing some health benefits. All you need to know about your water softener is whether such minerals are filtered out. If they are, you may want to consider supplements.
But even if you’re drinking tap water and doing everything right, some local municipalities, struggling from tax dollars lost due to the recession, have discussed the idea of stopping to provide fluoride in their drinking water. Although fluoridation costs only $1 per person per year, the expense still adds up and it’s clearly one that some providers have considered eliminating as a consequence.
So if you’re doing everything right on the fluoride front and drinking a healthy amount of tap water daily, you should still check for your local facility’s most updated fluoridation policy. If they are considering ceasing to fluoridate the water, tell them how important the service is for public health. And if they’re already past that point, and are no longer fluoridating your water, it’s probably time to head to the drugstore and buy some fluoride supplements. Your teeth will thank you later.