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Fluoride and dental sealants have been used as methods of promoting oral health since 1942, and remain in wide use throughout many communities in the U.S. According to the Tennessean, this element of the effort against tooth decay and other dental problems has advantages as well as disadvantages, leading to some debate over its overall worth.
The news source reports that the general benefits of fluoride are considerable. The element is included in various brands of toothpaste and in many communities is incorporated into the public water system, although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced changes to reduce the levels of public fluoridation.
Fluoride is known to strengthen the enamel surface of the teeth, increasing their resistance to acids and bacteria. Since the element noticeably weakens bacteria that invade the mouth, it effectively reduces decay.
However, fluorosis can occur as a result of excessive exposure to fluoride, and it can cause mild symptoms such as white spots or pits in enamel, or extremely severe conditions including bone cancer, decreased brain function or intellect and skeletal malformations.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Kentucky and the District of Columbia lead the U.S. for water fluoridation, with 100 and 99.6 percent of communities receiving fluoridated water, respectively, while Utah has the lowest U.S. community fluoridation level of 2.2 percent.
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