Fluoride: Friend or Foe?

What is fluoride? Is it safe? Why is our water fluoridated? Find out in today’s Fact Friday. 

What is fluoride? 

You may have heard of this element way back in science class. Well fluoride is a mineral, and it is found in food, water, air, soil, and also found in toothpaste and mouthwash [1]. 

Why is water fluoridated in Canada? 

Water has been fluoridated in Canada for over 70 years to prevent our teeth from decaying [2]. Registered Dental Hygienist Zohra Chhiboo explains that “fluoride helps in remineralization, desensitization and prevention of decay for teeth. Fluoridated water to an optimal level, is beneficial for children and adults as it’s a natural, safe and effective way to give exposure to these benefits”. The provincial ministry of environment regulates how much fluoride is in our water [3]. 

*Note: Speak to a dental professional for more information on fluoride and your dental health!*

Is bottled water a better choice? 

As mentioned, water that has optimal amounts of fluoride is shown to improve oral health and prevent cavities. But not all bottled water has fluoride. Therefore, try drinking more tap water or use it when cooking. (It’s also much better for the environment! Yes, climate change is real).

Are there any side effects from drinking fluoridated water?  

There are two known side effects of having too much fluoride: dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. The first condition only happens when you’ve had too much fluoride as a child (for ex. accidentally swallowing toothpaste), and as a result, your adult teeth have white or brown spots [3]. Skeletal fluorosis happens when you’ve had excessive amounts of fluoride daily, for a long time, and causes bones and joints to become hard [1]. 

Fortunately in Canada, the levels of fluoride in our water and other products are regulated and limited to be kept low [1]. And therefore some of these conditions become more and more rare. 

What about if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding? 

Health Canada states that other than fluorosis there aren’t any health conditions associated with fluoride, and that it is safe to have while pregnant or breastfeeding [1]. They do suggest to check if your infant formula has fluoride in case you add drinking water to it that has more than the guideline (1.5mg/L). In these infant formulas, they recommend using water with less fluoride.

Stay tuned for our upcoming post where we will review current research on whether drinking fluoridated water will affect a child’s IQ!

Conclusion:

Based on years of research, we know that drinking optimally fluoridated tap water in Canada is safe, improves oral health and is better for the environment than bottled water! So grab that reusable water bottle and fill it with some fresh tap water!

Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit ourContact Us page to book your first appointment.

Until next time,

Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD

References:

[1]  Health Canada (2017). Fluoride and Oral Health. [online] Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/environment/fluorides-human-health.html

[2] City of Toronto. (2019). Dental & Oral Health Services. [online] Available at: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-programs-advice/dental-and-oral-health-services/?accordion=fluoride-and-drinking-water

[3] Unlock Food (2018). Facts on Fluoride. [online] Available at: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Dental-health/Fluoride-Facts.aspx

[4] Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada (2018). Fact sheet – Community water fluoridation. [online] Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/publications/healthy-living/fluoride-factsheet.html

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