For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel, and thereby helping to prevent decay of tooth structures.
In nearly every U.S. community, public drinking supplies are supplemented with sodium fluoride because the practice is acknowledged as safe and effective in fighting cavities.
Some private wells may contain naturally fluoridated water.
Fluoride has come under some recent scrutiny by public health officials, some of whom question how effective it is in preventing cavities.
Bottled Water and Home Water Treatment Systems
The American Dental Association has maintained that consistent use of bottled water could result in individuals missing the benefits of optimally fluoridated water. Moreover, the ADA has held that some home water treatment systems change fluoridated water supplies for the worse.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child may face a condition called enamel fluorosis if he or she gets too much fluoride during the years of tooth development. Too much fluoride can result in defects in tooth enamel.
If you're wondering how fluoridated your community's water supply is, chances are you can get the latest information by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site.
A feature called "My Water's Fluoride" allows consumers to check out basic information about their water system, including the number of people served by the system and the target fluoridation level. Optimal levels recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC for drinking water range from 0.7 parts per million (ppm) for warmer climates to 1.2 ppm for cooler climates to account for the tendency for people to drink more water in warmer climates.
Toothpaste Warning Labels
The American Dental Association has stated that the FDA-required warning labels on toothpaste packaging, which state that poison control centers should be contacted if one swallows fluoride toothpaste, "could unnecessarily frighten parents and children, and that the label greatly overstates any demonstrated or potential danger posed by fluoride toothpastes."
- The Preventive Program
Both natural teeth and teeth with restorations survive best in an oral environment that is clean and where the intake of harmful foods is controlled. Our program is designed to help prevent new cavities, preserve teeth that have been restored and manage periodontal disease. At the initial visit oral hygiene instructions are reviewed and are reinforced at subsequent recall visits. The following are helpful recommendations:
- Brush your teeth twice a day in a circular motion with a soft bristled toothbrush aimed at the gum
- Floss every night in an up and down motion while keeping the floss in a U-shape and against the tooth surface
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid sticky sugary foods
- Eat a balanced diet
- Use antiseptic and fluoride rinses as directed
- Sealants placed on young permanent teeth
What effects can smoking have on my oral health? Are cigars a safe alternative to cigarettes? Are smokeless tobacco products safe? The American Dental Association has some alarming news that you should know on its web site at www.ada.org.
The American Dental Association states that it "has long been a leader in the battle against tobacco-related disease, working to educate the public about the dangers inherent in tobacco use and encouraging dentists to help their patients break the cycle of addiction. The ADA has continually strengthened and updated its tobacco policies as new scientific information has become available."
- Oral Piercing
Oral piercing (usually on the tongue or around the lips) is one of the more disturbing fashion trends in recent years. Many people fail to realize that that even precautions taken during the installation of a piece of piercing jewelry are not enough to stave off harmful, long-term consequences such as cracked or chipped teeth, swelling, problems with swallowing and taste, and ugly scars. Add to this the possibility of choking on a piece of dislodged jewelry and one has to ask if the risks are warranted.
But the most serious long-term health problems from oral piercing come in the form of damage to the soft tissues such as the cheeks, gums and palate, as well as opportunistic infections. Any kind of body piercing may also put you at risk of contracting deadly infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
A common form of body piercing involves the tongue. Tongue piercings have been known to cause blocked airways (from a swollen tongue). In some cases, a tongue piercing will cause uncontrolled bleeding.
Some states actually regulate or ban oral piercing, so ensure that you are not breaking any laws.
What's in a Filling?
Fillings, known clinically as amalgams, are synthetic materials that are used to restore a portion of a tooth damaged by decay or traumatic injury. There are different types of materials used to fill cavities, including gold and metal alloys.
Conventional amalgams are the silver-colored material many people have had placed in their teeth following treatment of a cavity. Many amalgams are actually a combination of various metal alloys, including copper, tin, silver and mercury. Mercury, a binding agent used in amalgams, has come under scrutiny lately by some health officials who claim it may cause long-term health problems.
Is Mercury in a Dental Filling Safe?
The American Dental Association cautions that emotional reports claiming amalgam is responsible for a variety of diseases are confusing and perhaps even alarming people to the point where they will not seek necessary dental care. Moreover, the ADA maintains that there has been no scientific evidence to show that amalgams are harmful because the minuscule amounts of mercury are so stable, they present no risks to humans. There have been rare cases of patients
There are alternatives to conventional substances used in amalgams, such as gold and metal alloys. These include materials made from porcelain and composite resins, which are colored to match natural tooth enamel. Unfortunately, few materials can match the strength and durability of conventional dental amalgam and may need more frequent replacement.
Common amalgam alternatives include:
- Composite fillings - As stated, composite fillings are just what the name implies: a mixture of resins and fine particles designed to mimic the color of natural teeth. While not as strong as dental amalgam, composite fillings provide a pleasing aesthetic alternative. Sometimes composite resins need to be cemented or bonded to a tooth to allow for better adhesion.
- Ionomers - Like composite resins, these materials are tooth-colored. Ionomers are made from a combination of various materials, including ground glass and acrylic resins. Ionomers are typically used for fillings near the gum line or tooth root, where biting pressure is not a factor. They are more fragile than dental amalgam, however. A small amount of fluoride is released by these compounds in order to facilitate strengthened enamel in the affected area.
- Porcelain (ceramic) - These materials are usually a combination of porcelain, glass powder, and ceramic. Candidates for porcelain fillings are typically crowns, veneers, and onlays and inlays. Unlike ionomers, porcelain fillings are more durable, but can become fractured if exposed to prolonged biting pressures.