What is it, and why is it in our water?
For the chemistry nerds out there, fluoride is an ionic form of the element fluorine. By ionic, we mean that the atom has gained a positive or negative charge as a result of the change in the number of electrons in its atomic structure. In the case of fluoride, it is a simple ion where fluorine gains an extra electron, making it negatively charged.
For those of you still awake, Fluoride is a chemical that comes in many forms and can occur naturally or as a result of industrial processes. The reason why it came to be added to our water is another story.
As mentioned before, Fluoride is naturally occurring and can therefore be found in many water sources around the world. What scientists observed was that in areas where naturally occurring fluoride levels in ground water were high, the population tented to have lower rates of cavities.
As a result of this, and a few scientific studies on the subject, it was decided that as a low-cost public health measure, we should add fluoride to our water in order to protect our teeth. So now we have fluoride added to our water in Australia! Hoo-ray!
How it’s supposed to work on our teeth:
According to some evidence, in the right amount, fluoride aids in reducing the demineralization of teeth, while at the same time acting to aid in the remineralization of teeth. In doing so, it protects your teeth from harmful bacteria that erode the enamel of your teeth and cause cavities.
In fact, the NHMRC found that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 26% to 44% in children and adolescents, and by 27% in adults. Recent Australian research states that access to fluoridated water from an early age is associated with less tooth decay in adults.
Further, there is no reliable evidence of an association between community water fluoridation at current Australian levels and any health problems.