Here’s Why Your Dentist Loves Fluoride So Much

While my mouth is full of equipment, my dentist always checks-in with, “You’re using fluoride products, right?” I respond with a shrug while trying not to spit or choke.

Here's Why Your Dentist Loves Fluoride So Much

© Getty / Morsa Images
Here’s Why Your Dentist Loves Fluoride So Much

Admittedly, I don’t seek out fluoride – it’s coincidentally in some of the dental products I habitually use. Am I consuming too little or too much? I have no idea – honestly, I’m not even sure of what fluoride is all about.

I have Dr. Shruti Shah, DMD, of ProHEALTH Dental, to thank for breaking things down for me: “Fluoride is a mineral that has cavity-fighting and cavity-prevention properties. Trace amounts of fluoride can be naturally found in water, food, soil, and plants. It’s most commonly consumed by drinking fluoridated water, having food and drinks that are made with fluoridated water, and using toothpaste and other dental products.”

Dr. Shah explains that your teeth’s enamel loses and gains minerals daily – plaque, bacteria, and sugar in the mouth attack the enamel while food and water containing minerals like calcium, fluoride, and phosphate replenish your teeth. When demineralization exceeds remineralization and the enamel layer isn’t sufficiently repaired, tooth decay occurs, she adds.

If you want to rebuild weakened tooth enamel, reverse the progression of early or existing cavities, prevent tooth decay, prevent the growth of harmful oral bacteria, or reduce hypersensitivity, Dr. Shah says that fluoride might help.

Gallery: The worst and best food for your teeth (Espresso)

Suffering from dry mouth (or a condition that causes dry mouth!) could make you more susceptible to developing dental cavities, in which case, your dentist might up your fluoride intake – especially if you’re dealing with tooth sensitivity, she adds.

“The safest and easiest way to consume fluoride is simply by drinking water in fluoridated communities. According to the CDC, drinking fluoridated water reduces tooth decay rate by 25 percent.”

Depending on your age and oral health, your dentist might recommend you use additional products like fluoride-infused toothpaste, mouthwashes, and beverages processed with fluoridated water, and dietary supplements containing prescription-level fluorides, Dr. Shah says.

Seeking advice from your dentist on fluoride intake is important because there is such a thing as overdoing it – especially amongst children. Dr. Shah explains that if a kid (especially under the age of six-years-old!) consumes too much fluoride, hazardous fluoride toxicity can occur.

“If enamel discoloration (dental fluorosis) occurs from overuse of fluoride (in young children), the amount of fluoride used topically should be reduced to the recommended levels based on age. Fluoride hypersensitivity or toxicity from the overuse of fluoride may indicate a need to lower usage of topical and/or systemic fluoride.”

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4 Balance Exercises a PT Loves To Recommend

If my stint on the beam in childhood gymnastics class taught me anything, it’s that balance is no small feat. While strength and flexibility get a lot of accolades in the fitness world, your relationship with gravity is just as important. That’s why I tapped yoga teacher-slash-physical therapist Lara Heimann, PT, for balance exercises that you should make a point of incorporating into your fitness routine.

“Balance is a host of different variables that are all orchestrated in the brain,” says Heimann. Your vision, mobility, proprioception (your “sixth sense” that tells you where your body is in space), and the vestibular system (a network of organs in the inner ear) all play a role in keeping you upright. It’s an intricate system that works together in complex and fascinating ways, and Heimann breaks it down as follows.

“There are receptors lining your joints, in your ligaments, and in your tendons that are telling you where you are in space. They’re constantly communicating with the brain,” says Heimann. “If you’re walking over pavement and then suddenly the terrain switches to gravel, it’s not like you have to look down and adjust. Your body makes a really quick response, and that’s a part of balance.” All of this is encompassed by the term proprioception. Meanwhile, the vestibular system acts like a leveler in your body, keeping you from leaning too far one way or the other. Vision and mobility are a little more straightforward; you need both for balance because you need to see what’s around you and move with ease to take the path of least resistance.

“The thing about balance is that we are constantly making it better or making it worse.” —Lara Heimann, PT

Working on your balance is a lifelong commitment and one that’s well worth your time, says Heimann. “The thing about balance is that we are constantly making it better or making it worse. It doesn’t tend to stay static,” she says. When we habitually do less large movement patterns (as sometimes happens as we get older), our body develops a fear around them and they get harder to do. That’s why physical therapists often use the sitting-rising test (which involves sitting down then standing up without using your hands) as a marker of longevity.

Before you dive into workouts that will better your balance better, Heimann says she likes to recommend a little test that you can use a diagnostic that will lay bare exactly how your body’s feeling about gravity these days. (Hint: It involves standing on one leg—so get excited.)

The single-leg exercise for testing your balance

Remember your schoolyard days when you would try to hopscotch with just one leg once you’d mastered the move with two? Well, Heimann wants you to channel your younger, carefree self to see how your bod really feels about balance. “Stand on one leg. Stand on your left leg and bring your right knee up to about hip height,” instructs Heimann. From there, Heimann wants

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