And so, the first month of the decade has come and gone- but that’s okay! It is a new month, and with it comes new and great things! This month is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and while it isn’t something new, it is definitely something great. Every year on this month, dental health professionals collaborate with children and their caregivers, and work to teach and promote the benefits of good oral health to them and to others who might be in their lives. One thing that is very important for children and parents to understand, is the significance of fluoride. 2020 actually marks the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation, and the slogan this year is, “Fluoride in water prevents cavities! Get it from the tap!” and it’s true! Fluoride is in our tap water, and it’s also in food, but have no fear, fluoride is a great thing.
So, what exactly is fluoride? Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities in children AND adults! It does this by making the outer surface of the teeth, also known as the enamel, more resistant to the acids present in the things we eat and drink that cause tooth decay which becomes cavities. As we all probably know, fluoride is regularly found in toothpaste. When it comes from there, the fluoride is directly placed onto the teeth where it strengthens enamel, which in turn builds its resistance to decay. When it comes from foods and drinks, however, the body processes the fluoride as a supplement, but the fluoride has the same great effect of strengthening and protecting. This might sound too good to be true, but it’s even better than it sounds, because fluoride is very easy to find!
One of the easiest ways to get fluoride without even thinking about it, is by drinking water. 75 years ago, today, fluoride was added to public water supplies in order to provide the amount necessary to help with preventing cavities. Before this was done, kids had approximately 3x as many cavities as they do now! Another excellent source of fluoride is toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoridated toothpaste has helped cavities drop significantly since the 1960’s.