1515 Wilson Blvd., Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22209

"I have high anxiety during dental visits. Not this time!" — Alexa H.

Monthly Archives: December 2020

The History of Fluoride in Dentistry

IN ORDER TO EARN the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, a tube of toothpaste must contain fluoride as its active ingredient. We also add trace amounts of fluoride to our drinking water across the country to help keep our teeth healthy and strong. So what’s so special about fluoride?

The Wild Origin Story of Fluoridated Drinking Water

Our tale begins at the dawn of the 20th century in Colorado Springs. Local dentists were seeing so many cases of brown — but not decayed — teeth that they named the strange condition “Colorado brown stain.” They were observing what we now know to be fluorosis, and it was happening because of the abundance of naturally occurring fluoride in the town’s drinking water.

The residents of early-1900s Colorado Springs were clearly getting too much fluoride in their water, but dentists wanted to see if there was a level of fluoride that would help reduce cavities without staining the teeth. Happily, there was! The first town to add fluoride to its drinking water was Grand Rapids, Michigan. It brought down the rate of childhood caries by a staggering 60%, with no adverse effects aside from a few cases of mild fluorosis.

Fluoridated Water Today

More than half of the U.S. Population enjoys the dental health benefits of fluoridated drinking water today, something the CDC considers to be one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the last century. It benefits everyone, whether they’re rich or poor, young or old, male or female. It might seem strange if you aren’t familiar with it, but it’s about the same as using iodized salt, baking with enriched flour, or drinking milk with added vitamin D.

What Fluoride Does for Our Teeth

The processes of remineralization and demineralization are happening constantly in our tooth enamel, and the goal of dental health habits is to make sure that remineralization is winning. For that, we need the raw materials to rebuild enamel, and fluoride is one of them. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste is one way to get it, but the trace amounts in our drinking water ensures an continuous supply of fluoride in our saliva.

Fluoride: Not Too Much or Too Little

We saw in Colorado Springs that it’s possible for fluoride to do more harm than good to teeth when the exposure level is too high. Avoiding fluoride entirely, on the other hand,  leaves the teeth more vulnerable to decay. Drinking water only contains up to 1.2 parts per million of fluoride, and we should be spitting out our toothpaste after brushing and only using small amounts of it, especially for children. This is how we hit that Goldilocks zone of cavity protection without fluorosis!

Do You Have Fluoride Questions?

If you still have questions about the fluoride in toothpaste or in drinking water, you can check sources like the ADA and the CDC, or you could ask us! We want our patients to have all the information they need to feel confident in their dental care and the value of the daily habits we encourage.

Our patients’ healthy smiles are wonderful to see!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Oral Health in Cold and Flu Season

WHAT DOES A TOOTHBRUSH have to do with cold and flu season? More than you’d think! It’s never fun to battle a cold or a bout of flu, but that’s no reason to slack off on taking care of our teeth and gums.

Feel Better Through Dental Hygiene

It can feel like a lot of work to keep up with brushing and flossing when we’re not feeling well, but it’s worth it. Maintaining these simple daily habits is still important. They help us feel more normal, refreshed, and rejuvenated, and when we feel unwell, they can give us a small sense of accomplishment that does a lot for our overall sense of wellbeing. And getting rid of more oral bacteria can only help by giving your immune system less work to do!

Stuffy Noses Can Lead to Cavities?

Indirectly, not being able to breathe through our noses does make us more vulnerable to tooth decay. When we’re forced to breathe through our mouths, it dries up our saliva. This can be a major problem because saliva is the first line of defense against harmful oral bacteria. It washes away leftover food particles and keeps our oral pH neutral so that our enamel can stay strong.

Sometimes it’s the medicine we take that dries out our mouths (antihistamines, pain relievers, and decongestants are all big offenders), so make sure to drink plenty of water and breathe through your nose whenever possible.

Why Does Our Breath Smell When We’re Sick?

Have you ever gotten that snotty taste in your mouth when you have a cold? If you can taste it, then it’s probably what your breath smells like, and it comes from post-nasal drip (the excess mucus that leaks down the back of the throat during a runny nose). Bacteria can easily multiply in this situation, resulting in unpleasant smells. There’s one more reason to keep up with brushing and flossing while we’re sick!

Starve Bacteria by Cutting Back on Sugar

Harmful bacteria likes to live in our mouths because it can get plenty of access to its favorite food there: sugar. When we eat sugary cough drops, it might help with the cough, but it’s as bad for our teeth as hard candy. In addition to generally cutting back on sugary foods and drinks, we recommend choosing a sugar-free cough drop for combating a cough.

Likewise, use water or other sugar-free drinks to rehydrate when an illness is using up all your body’s fluids. When we do consume sugar, we should rinse with water after to wash away the leftovers. Drinking plenty of water is particularly important when we have a stomach bug, because it helps protect our teeth from the damage stomach acid can do to them if we’re vomiting frequently.

Bring Us Your Oral Health Questions

If we haven’t answered all your questions about how common illnesses and oral health interact with each other, just let us know! We want to make sure all our patients have the information they need to keep their teeth and gums in good shape, even when they’re not feeling well!

Take care this flu season!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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