Fluoride is a naturally-occurring ion of the element fluorine and it can be found in food, water, and even soil. It is one of the most abundant elements on the planet’s crust, and, curiously, it has also become entangled in one of the most controversial public health debates in history.
If you are planning to enroll in dental assistant courses, read on to learn why fluoride has become the subject of intensive study, heated debate, and public education programs.
The Benefits of Fluoride are Discovered by Dental Experts
Because fluoride is so abundant, it sometimes occurs naturally in water sources. In the 1930s, dental experts conducted ground-breaking research on communities that drank naturally fluoridated water and found that they were up to two-thirds less likely to suffer from tooth decay.
This was a major breakthrough at the time. During the first half of the 20th century, dental health was not as critical as it is today and many people suffered from cavities and had to have their teeth extracted.
The problem was so bad that some official records noted that; “Failure to meet the minimum standard of having six opposing teeth was a leading cause of rejection from military service in both world wars.”
It’s no surprise, then, that when dental industry experts discovered the benefits of fluoride, they quickly began to extensively study which doses were safest and how to help as much of the population as possible.
How Fluoride Protects Teeth
Students completing dental assistant training are familiar with the oral health benefits of fluoride. In fact, dental assistants are sometimes required to apply fluoride varnishes, gels, and foams to patients’ teeth.
Fluoride benefits the teeth in two ways. First, it encourages remineralisation of the tooth enamel. This strengthens teeth and can even partially fix damaged enamel (but not once a cavity has already formed).
Secondly, fluoride prevents new damage known as demineralization. Demineralization happens when harmful bacteria turns sugar into acid that eats away at tooth enamel. Because fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel through remineralisation, it makes it less susceptible to future acid damage.
Controversy About Fluoride in Water
Because of the benefits of fluoride and the great public need for better oral health, many leading organizations in Canada and around the world recommend adding it to public drinking water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Canadian Dental Association (CDA), World Health Organization (WHO) as well as many others recommend fluoride as an effective preventative public health initiative.
As a result, many communities in Canada, and the rest of the world add fluoride to public drinking water.
However, some critics have pointed out that adding fluoride to water takes away a citizen’s right to choose whether they receive the treatment or not. They state that while they might opt for the professional application of fluoride from a dental school graduate, the lack of choice that comes with a sweeping public policy feels like an infringement on their rights.
In response, professionals who have completed dental assistant programs state that adding fluoride to drinking water benefits those who may not be able to afford regular dental care. They also state that adding fluoride to water saves money for both governments and individuals who might otherwise have to pay for more expensive treatments later in life.
Do you think fluoride should be kept or removed from public drinking water?
Are you interested in becoming a dental assistant? Visit Anderson College to learn more about our 26-week diploma program, or to speak with an advisor.