What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a chemical which occurs naturally in many water supplies. It has been proven to reduce dental decay by as much as 80% in children if given in the correct amounts.

Some water supplies are artificially fluoridated to a concentration of one-part fluoride per million parts water (ppm), which is considered to be ideal and the dentists at Barley Mow support water fluoridation on a national scale to reduce the ravages of dental decay.

At the Barley Mow, we have a small but increasing number of children with widespread decay, which would fit with the reduction in the level of natural fluoride in the local water over the last few years from 0.7ppm to 0.2ppm.

Fluoride Supplements

Malmesbury water has a low enough level of fluoride that supplementation is recommended at all ages, and should certainly be considered by the age of 3. 

Please talk to your dentist about what he or she would recommend.

Fluoride supplements in the form of tablets, toothpastes and mouthwashes are available at no charge on NHS prescription for those under 18 years old.

Are There Any Harmful Effects?

In very high concentrations or amounts, fluoride can become toxic.

A much more common effect is fluorosis which can occur if a little too much fluoride is taken in over a period of time. This is only important below the age of 6 as by then, the adult front teeth have formed.

Fluorosis is seen as white flecking or brown mottling on the surface of the teeth. It is not dangerous or harmful to the teeth, but it doesn’t look very attractive and therefore is best avoided if possible.

It is because of the risk of fluorosis that we recommend that only a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste is used when brushing children’s teeth, and that children are encouraged not to swallow toothpaste.

However, it has been shown that minimal or no rinsing after spitting out the excess toothpaste after brushing enhances the effect of the fluoride.

Many other toxic effects are claimed for fluoride but do not stand up to statistical analysis. It is impossible to prove something is safe, but it is easy to prove fluoride massively decreases the incidence of decay in children and adults.

 Other Uses for Fluoride

Teenagers can suffer from an increased risk of decay either because of a poor diet, poor brushing or the presence of orthodontic appliances. Often, it is all three!

Similarly, some of our older patients can see a large increase in decay activity following the use of some medications or after cancer treatment. In many, the reasons are not clear cut and are probably linked to a decrease in saliva quantity and/or quality.

In any case, the decay can be very destructive and troublesome to control.

In both cases we may well recommend the use of additional fluoride delivered as a gel held in custom made trays or as triple-strength fluoride toothpaste.

 Do We Have Fluoride in Our Water?

Our local water supply in Malmesbury is not artificially fluoridated, but there is a natural fluoride level of around 0.2 ppm which is well below the ideal level of 0.7 to 1 ppm.

Patients who live further away from the practice may receive their water from different sources and would be advised to check with their local water supplier.

It is also possible that children may be mainly drinking bottled water, so the fluoride content would need to be checked, as each brand varies in the level of fluoride contained.

The effect of water filters is unclear, but will probably remove some, if not most of the fluoride. Thus, children who drink solely from these filters are at increased risk of decay

 Finding out your fluoride level

Wessex Water and Thames Water both have postcode searches available for the supply area they cover. or you can phone them and enquire. Use the following details to check.

Go to www.wessexwater.co.uk, select the ‘Help and Advice’ tab, and select ‘check your water quality’ box to the right of your screen. 

The fluoride level will be around 2-300, which is divided by 1000 to get parts per million

Go to www.thameswater.co.uk, select ‘Help and Advice’, then select ‘water quality’ down the left.