Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jayme G. Jayme G Wonders, “Is fluoride bad for you?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jayme G!

You probably brush your teeth several times each day. If you listen to your dentist, you probably floss daily, too. Is there anything else you need to keep your teeth healthy?

As a matter of fact, there is! It’s called fluoride. It’s probably already in your toothpaste. It may be in the water that comes out of your tap at home, too.

Fluoride comes from fluorine. That’s an element often found in the Earth’s crust. Fluoride is found naturally in many sources of water. Long ago, scientists found that it can help stop—and sometimes even reverse—tooth decay.

Wonder Friends already know that bacteria in your mouth break down sugar left on your teeth after you eat. As the sugar breaks down, it turns into acid. That acid can hurt the outer coating of your teeth, called enamel. It also makes holes called cavities.

What happens if you don’t brush your teeth regularly? Bacteria can build up to form plaque. This looks like a clear film on your teeth. Brushing helps to get rid of plaque and stop it from forming.

Fluoride also helps to fight against tooth decay. It helps protect the enamel on your teeth. It can also help your teeth to repair themselves by rebuilding enamel.

So how do you get the fluoride your teeth need to stay healthy? You can find it in most toothpaste. And of course, fluoride occurs naturally in water. That means your local water supply might also be a regular source of fluoride.

In some areas, though, not enough fluoride is present in the water supply. In that case, the local water supplier may add fluoride to the water supply to help protect teeth. If your water supply is not fluoridated, you can purchase mouth rinses with fluoride at most stores.

Some people oppose adding fluoride to water supplies. They believe that it isn’t effective in preventing tooth decay. They also think it may be harmful to your health if you ingest too much fluoride.

Research has shown, though, that fluoride does help stop and reverse tooth decay. There is also evidence that fluoride is safe in levels of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. Dentists also point to the dramatic reduction in tooth decay in the last 30 years. They say people’s teeth have benefited from water fluoridation becoming popular.

So how can you make sure you’re getting enough fluoride? Ask your dentist! Dentists can check the health of your teeth. They can then suggest additional fluoride supplements if you need them.

Standards: NGSS.PS1.A, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4

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