Your patients’ top fluoride questions — explained!

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Need answers to your patients’ common fluoride questions? Dentists recently asked an ADA expert their questions about nature’s cavity fighter, based on what they hear from their patients, during a Facebook Live event the ADA hosted April 18.

The event featured explanations from Dr. Kevin Donly, a member of the expert panel the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs convened in 2013 to create the ADA’s most recent topical fluoride guideline. Dr. Melissa Lee Davis, former vice president of the Chicago Dental Society, Northwest Suburban Branch, interviewed him.

Dr. Donly answered several questions on fluoride, such as:

  • Why is fluoride important? Is it really necessary?

If there is one thing dentists know, it’s that fluoride is great. Fluoride is a natural mineral in our environment and back in the 1930s, it was noticed that parts of the country that were naturally fluoridated at higher levels had fewer cavities in the population, so for the next 20 years, a lot of research was done. We came up with water fluoridation in the 1940s and then we went on to professionally apply topical fluorides today, which has probably been the greatest thing to reduce the caries level in our population.

  • What would you tell parents or patients who are concerned about the risks of fluoride?

The first thing I tell them is that fluoride is safe. Then, I refer them to the ADA Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry because the best reference materials patients will ever find on fluoride are available there. I also remind patients that small levels of fluoride are certainly safe. We have years and years of evidence to support this. The American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, The United States Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization recommend fluoride, so there’s a lot of data that shows it’s safe and effective.

  • Should adults get fluoride treatment?
    Fluoride treatments can be effective for adults when we extrapolate from studies on children. For instance, research shows that fluoride rinses can help adults who have lost part of the bone on their teeth and have exposed roots.

For more ADA-approved fluoride explanations, watch the full video of Dr. Donly’s interview from April 18 on the ADA’s official Facebook page and read responses to more than a dozen fluoride questions in the video’s comments section.

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