Fluoride decreases dental decay. Since 1945, the U.S. Government has advocated the controlled addition of fluoride to public drinking water. In small amounts, ingested fluoride seems to strengthen the enamel while it is being formed in young children or pregnant women.
Recommended levels of fluoride in water should range from 0.5mg – 1.0mg per liter of water with 0.7mg per liter as optimal. In rare cases, extreme excesses of fluoride in water will change the appearance of the enamel, making permanent teeth look discolored and pitted. This was a common problem in years past for individuals using unregulated well water with a high mineral content as the source of their drinking water.
In recent years, the dental profession has recognized the benefit of applying fluoride to the teeth in the form of toothpaste or gels to helps prevent tooth decay. Patients with a high rate of tooth decay and those at risk for developing decay due to xerostomia (chronic dry mouth) or post-radiation treatment will often use topical fluoride on a regular basis. Patients with exposed root surfaces may be able to use topical fluoride to decrease the associated sensitivity.