It's true! Fluoride — a key mineral for strong teeth — originates in rocks. It’s then released into soil, water and air. So if fluoride is naturally found in water, why is it added to our water supplies and toothpaste? Before we answer, let’s explore why the American Dental Association labeled fluoride “nature’s cavity fighter.”
Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, which helps protect your teeth from decay. It also combats acids in your mouth that can cause cavities. Fluoride can even rebuild the surface of your teeth in the early stages of tooth decay.
Most water naturally contains fluoride but usually not enough to prevent tooth decay.
Because teeth benefit from consistent exposure to fluoride, many communities add fluoride to water supplies. Approximately 75% of the U.S. population on public water systems benefits from regular access to fluoridated tap water.1
Fluoridated water, along with processed beverages like soft drinks and fruit juices made with fluoridated water, accounts for about 75% of fluoride consumption.2
Some bottled waters may contain fluoride – depending on the water source – but most do not. If the label reads de-ionized, purified, demineralized or distilled, it has only trace amounts or no fluoride unless it’s listed as an added ingredient. Remember, if you or your children are drinking mostly bottled water, you are missing out on cavity-preventing fluoride. Reverse osmosis water filters also remove some fluoride from tap water, while typical charcoal-based filters do not.
Toothpaste is another significant source of fluoride as more than 95% of toothpaste sold in the United States contains fluoride.3 Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day and drinking fluoridated water is an excellent way to consistently get fluoride. Fluoride is also available in some other clearly labeled dental products such as mouthwashes.
Because fluoride is so important for children at high risk of cavities, dentists may prescribe fluoride supplements such as tablets or liquids. Your dentist can also apply a fluoride varnish, gel or foam to teeth. Dental plans usually cover fluoride treatments for children but not for adults. Check your plan to see what’s covered.
For nearly 75 years, communities have added fluoride to water, leading to a dramatic decline in tooth decay.4 By reducing cavities in children and adults, fluoridation has helped save families and the U.S. health care system billions of dollars.5 As a result, community water fluoridation was named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as 1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.