To imagine our life without water would be impossible. After all, we would cease to exist if that happened. Water constitutes a major part of the streams, lakes, and rivers on Earth and it is essential for all the known life forms.
There are numerous benefits of drinking adequate water in a day. It can reduce fatigue; improve your mood and aid in losing weight. It helps you to stay healthy by flushing out the toxins.
Water is a major component of the human body. It is recommended that you must drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day to remain healthy.
The process of adding Fluoride to drinking water to prevent tooth decay has been in practice for several years. Lately, there have been debates about the effectiveness of this method. Many people also believe that it has some negative effects and it is a dangerous practice.
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What Is Fluoridation?
Fluoridation can be defined as the process in which fluoride is added to the public water supply system in a controlled manner. The aim of fluoridation is to reduce the incidences of tooth decay.
Fluoridated water is the water, which contains fluoride at a level such that it can help to prevent cavities. The fluoride may be present naturally in the water, or it may have been added. The addition of fluoride in the water does not affect the taste, smell or the appearance of water in any manner.
The effects of fluoride would have to be considered after taking into account its daily intake from all sources. While drinking water is the largest source, another important factor is the fluoridation of toothpaste.
Most countries, which undertake this process, add a fluoridated compound to the drinking water and it is an economical process.
There has been a widespread debate about the necessity of the fluoridation process. It has its fair share of supporters and critics alike.
Some countries believe that fluoridation is an effective way to ensure that the entire community gets fluoride exposure. On the other hand, some other nations oppose this process, as they believe it does not have any significant benefits.
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How Does Fluoridation Work?
The debate about the effectiveness of fluoridation has been going on for a long time, and it has not yielded any concrete results yet. There is no evidence to support the theory that drinking fluoridated water helps to reduce the incidences of tooth decay.
However, it has been observed that when fluoride and teeth come in contact with each other, it helps to remineralize the enamel that is damaged.
Let us look at how this process works:
- The tooth enamel is made up of hydroxyapatite which is a compound consisting of calcium and phosphate.
- The tooth enamel is susceptible to the attack by acids. The type of bacteria that thrive on the sugars found in the mouth multiplies on the surface of the teeth. This leads to the production of acids.
- You might brush your teeth but this is not sufficient to address the issue of the ongoing damage occurring to the tooth enamel. Mechanical brushing can only help to dislodge these bacteria and rinse them away.
- Saliva helps to neutralize the acid and the teeth utilize the compounds found in saliva to remineralize the enamel. The teeth remain healthy as long as there is a balance in the mineralization and demineralization process.
- If more minerals are lost from the teeth than replaced, cavities can form. Fluoride interacts with hydroxyapatite and forms a strong compound. This compound is less susceptible to the attack of the acids.
- Even after spitting out the toothpaste and rinsing the mouth, there is enough fluoride that remains on the teeth and saliva. This helps to ensure protection for some time after brushing.
- If there is tooth decay and it is left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems. It could also lead to infections, which could spread, into the jaw.
Pros And Cons Of Fluoridation
Countries where water is fluoridated claim that tooth decay has declined ever since the process of water fluoridation came into effect. On the other hand, countries where water is not fluoridated, say that decline in tooth decay has taken place even without this process in place. Thus the opinion about the process seems equally divided.
Let us look at some of the pros and cons of fluoridation.
- Prevents tooth decay: One of the biggest advantages is that the process of fluoridation helps in preventing tooth decay. It has been observed that cavities can be reduced significantly and tooth decay could be reduced by up to a massive ninety percent. This is the reason why this process has been supported by a large number of people.
- For economically disadvantaged: There are many people who do no have access to dental care. This is true especially in the case of underprivileged children who might not be able to afford expensive dental care. Fluoridation can help everyone to avoid cavities, no matter what their financial condition is.
- Mass prevention: This process is a mass preventative initiative that is undertaken by many countries around the world. It has even received support and approved by reputable organizations. It is known to be one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20thcentury, which is a huge accomplishment.
- Cost effective: Since it is a mass preventative health measure, it can be very cost effective when used in large communities. It is very economical compared to some of the other preventative measures in the oral health scenario. It has also contributed to huge savings over the years by greatly reducing the dental care costs.
- Health risk: The use of fluoride can be risky for those suffering from kidney disease. Those who oppose this process feel that there is not adequate information regarding the long terms risks that can be caused by ingesting fluoride.
- Unsafe for children: It has been reported that excessive use of fluoride can cause spots on the teeth of children. Overexposure to fluoride especially during the early years when the permanent teeth are being formed could lead to fluorosis.
- Unethical: Another factor that critics have been protesting about is the unethical aspect of fluoridation. They feel that the government is forcing this option on people without giving them any choice about its usage.
The use of fluoride can be risky for those suffering from kidney disease. Those who oppose this process feel that there is not adequate information regarding the long terms risks that can be caused by ingesting fluoride.
Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition, which affects the teeth. After the teeth are formed, the teeth that are affected by fluorosis may seem slightly discolored. It can also cause low IQ in children.
Those opposing the fluoridation process argue that giving the entire population a dose of fluoride to reach a few people is unethical and wrong. It is also not possible to control the amount of water someone drinks and hence regulating the amount of fluoride is impossible.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: They also say that this process is unnecessary due to the easy availability of toothpaste that contains fluoride. Such products were not available earlier when the fluoridation process was started. Hence continuing it now is an unnecessary process.
Ways To Remove Fluoride From Water
There have been no concrete reports regarding the ill effects that fluoride can cause to your health. However, it is advisable to ensure the minimum consumption of any chemical to maintain a healthy life.
As the debate between choosing water that is fluoridated or not increases, many people are choosing to remove fluoride from their water. This can be beneficial as drinking water that is clean and free of any chemical is always wise.
Below are some methods, which are useful to remove the fluoride from water.
1. Reverse Osmosis Filtration
The process of Reverse Osmosis or RO is a common method used for the purification of water. RO uses a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane has pores such that the water molecules can pass but other molecules are blocked.
Water molecules are pushed from one side to the other through this membrane when pressure is applied on that side. This results in the production of pure water.
There are a few downsides to using this method given below:
- This method is a slow process.
- Though it helps to remove fluoride to a large extent, it also removes minerals like calcium and magnesium that are essential for your body.
- These systems tend to be expensive.
2. Using Activated Alumina
Activated Alumina or AA is one of the most effective filter materials that are used to remove fluoride and arsenic from the water. AA is a ceramic compound, which is made of aluminum oxide. It has a very high surface-area-to-weight ratioand it has a high capacity to absorb fluoride.
There is a number of tunnel-like pores that are present throughout. This is useful to remove fluoride as it has a large surface are that the water can interact with. It can remove more than 90% of the fluoride and arsenic.
The downsides to this method are:
- As you continue using it, the fluoride coats the alumina. This would require you to change the cartridge. On an average, a cartridge would last for a year for a family of four.
- This method will not work well where the water has a high pH level or is alkaline.
- The filtration process is slow compared to other methods.
3. Using Bone Char
Bone Char is a porous and black colored material that is produced by burning animal bones. It is a granular material that works very well for filtration purposes.
Bone char mainly consists of tricalcium phosphate, which is used to remove fluoride from water. It is one of the earliest known agents used in the fluoridation process and continues to be widely used.
It helps in removing more than 90% of fluoride from water. In addition, it also removes certain metals, contaminants, arsenic etc. It has a lower surface area than activated carbons but its highly porous surface has a high capacity of absorption.
Some tips to keep in mind when using bone char are:
- If your main purpose of using it is to remove fluoride, then it is advisable to add some pre-filters. This will help to remove any heavy metals and contaminants before the water is introduced to the bone char.
- It does not work well in hard water and needs the water to be at a slightly acidic pH level for optimum use.
4. Using Distillation Filters
One way to remove fluoride from the tap water is to buy a water distillation unit. Water that is subjected to the distillation method is free from most of its impurities. The process of distillation involves boiling the water, and then the steam is condensed in a clean container.
Some of the downsides of using this process are:
- Water that is distilled does not contain any impurities but it also removes the minerals present in water. The body requires these minerals to remain healthy.
- The benefits of drinking water are lost when these minerals are removed. Hence distilled water is not a healthy option.
- Distilled water can be perfect for use in household appliances such as irons or water heaters. Since there are no minerals in the water, it will prevent the mineral build up or calcification. The life of these appliances may increase when distilled water is used.
5. Drinking Spring Water
Another way to avoid fluoride that is present in the tap water is by purchasing spring water. There are different brands of spring water available for you to choose from.
These brands get the water from a spring by pumping the water from a body of water that is deep inside the ground. This water would not contain any chemicals that might have leached into the groundwater. Spring water can be considered the most natural form of water, as it is not even subjected to a treatment plant.
Some brands might contain low levels of fluoride. Ideally, the level should be below 0.1 ppm.
Some downsides to this option are:
- Some brands might contain high levels of fluoride; hence it is advisable to check the label. If you are unsure about the level of fluoride, check the label or call the number given on the label to find out.
- Since it is known to be an organic or all natural product, it may be expensive.
Other Methods To Reduce Exposure To Fluoride
Fluoride exposure can be dangerous but there are other ways in which you can reduce the possibility of its occurrence. Some of the methods are:
Use Non - Fluoride Toothpaste
Toothpaste that contains fluoride is the largest source of fluoride intake. It can be especially harmful to children as it could lead to dental fluorosis.
Swallowing fluoride toothpaste is a common feature with children. This could contain more than the recommended amount of fluoride in a day from all other sources.
It is best to use a non-fluoride toothpaste. However, most brands contain fluoride and hence children must be given a small amount of paste under supervision so they don’t swallow it.
It is also recommended to avoid buying candy-flavored toothpaste to decrease the chances of children swallowing it. These kinds of toothpaste usually contain fluoride levels that are recommended for adults.
Avoid Fluoride Gel Treatments
Fluoride gel treatments must only be used on patients with a high risk of cavities. Many dentists use it without taking into the cavity risk of the patient.
The fluoride gel treatment involves using a highly concentrated fluoride gel. There are high chances of the patient ingesting this gel even if precautionary measures such as suction devices are used.
This could be dangerous especially for children. Patients could be at risk for nausea, stomach pain, vomiting etc. Fluoride gel treatments are best avoided.
Avoid Teflon Pans
Usually, pans that are non-stick have a Teflon coating on them. Teflon is a chemical, which contains fluoride.
When the food comes in contact with the Teflon coating, the chemical can leach into the food. The chances of this are greatly increased if the pan is scratched. Hence it is better to use stainless steel pans to avoid increasing the fluoride content in the food.
Processed foods and beverages are made using fluoridated water and consuming them increases your risk of exposure to fluoride. The more the food is processed; greater is the quantity of fluoride it will contain. Hence it is advisable to eat fresh, raw and natural foods.
Avoid canned foods and drinks. Reduce your consumption of black and green tea as they can contain high levels of fluoride. Avoid the intake of fluoridated salt as this can increase the fluoride exposure.
The debate whether water should be fluoridated or not continues and might do so for a while. There are different methods to choose from if you wish to remove fluoride from the water. Choose one depending on your specific needs and requirements.
One might not have too much control if the water available is fluoridated. However, you can certainly make the right choices when it comes to food and lifestyle so that the negative effects of fluoride exposure are minimized.
Taking care of one’s health is an investment that is vital to lead a long and healthy life. The small steps that one takes will have benefits that will surely be visible in the long run.
We hope this information helped you understand and know more about fluoride water consumption and the steps you can take to avoid it. These tips will help your family and you to avoid the dangers of fluoride exposure.
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