Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, present in our bodies and the environment. The benefits of fluoride were first noticed in the early 1900s when a Colorado dentist observed a portion of his patient population with unusually few cavities. That patient population was traced to an area with a naturally high level of fluoride in its water supply. After scientific studies, Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first community to add fluoride to its public water supply, in January of 1945. Since then, studies have proven the positive effects of fluoride on the teeth, and there has been a significant reduction in the number of cavities nationwide. The Center for Disease Control touts public water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century!
It is important that children ingest fluoride as their bodies are developing their adult dentition so that it can be incorporated into the structure of the tooth, making the teeth stronger. Once the teeth have erupted, topical application of fluoride (from toothpastes, rinses, in-office fluoride treatments, and even drinking water) is important to strengthen and re-mineralize the teeth to make them more resistant to decay.
The use of fluoride is currently a topic of hot debate among scientists, dentists, and parents. There have been no studies linking fluoridated water or toothpaste to low IQ levels, as some Internet articles would lead you to believe. While fluoride can be poisonous at high levels, it has been reliably safe at the 0.7 part per million that is in our public water supply. Click here to read more on this debate.