Fluoride is a mineral that is found in small amounts in all natural water sources, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. In addition to naturally occurring fluoride, many municipalities add fluoride to their water supply to help prevent tooth decay.
The role of fluoride in dental health is well established. Fluoride is able to remineralize teeth, which means it helps to strengthen and repair weak spots in tooth enamel that are susceptible to decay. Fluoride also inhibits the growth of harmful oral bacteria, reduces acid production in the mouth, and promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel.
In addition to its effects on dental health, fluoride has been found to have important benefits for skeletal health as well. Studies have shown that communities with fluoridated water supplies have lower rates of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
However, it is important to note that excessive fluoride intake can lead to negative health effects, including dental fluorosis (staining and pitting of tooth enamel), skeletal fluorosis (joint pain and stiffness), and abnormalities in thyroid function. As such, it is important to maintain a balanced and appropriate level of fluoride intake through sources such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and professionally applied fluoride treatments.