Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally present in lakes, rivers, and oceans. There is also fluoride in certain foods and beverages. Fluoride helps prevent cavities, and it is added to some dental products, including toothpaste.
Different kinds of toothpaste have varying levels of fluoride. You can check the amount of the fluoride in the toothpaste on the label. The amount of fluoride is described in parts per million (ppm). Toothpaste with fluoride between 1,350 and 1,500 ppm is the most beneficial at preventing cavities. Your dentist or doctor may suggest using a high-fluoride toothpaste if you or your child are at risk of developing tooth decay.
In some countries, fluoride is added to the drinking water (a process known as water fluoridation) to help prevent cavities. In 2012, about 75 percent of people in the United States had fluoridated drinking water.
Fluoride is beneficial to both adults and children. Before babies start teething, the fluoride ingested from beverages, supplements, and food helps make the tooth enamel stronger and resist dental decay. This is called the “systemic” benefit of fluoride.
After your teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild weakened enamel and reverses signs of dental decay. When you use fluoride toothpaste or other dental products with fluoride, you apply the mineral to your tooth’s surface. This is called the “topical” benefit of fluoride. Fluoride in beverages and foods also mixes with your saliva and bathes your teeth with a small amount of the mineral. This also helps rebuild the weakened enamel.
Dental decay, also referred to as cavities, dental caries, or tooth decay, is a major health concern all over the world. Dental tissue decays because of acids from bacteria in dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky covering on your teeth that constantly forms in your mouth. Every time you consume sugary drinks or food, the bacteria in the plaque form acid that attacks your teeth.
If you consume a lot of sugary food and/or drinks, then your teeth have to endure more of these acid attacks, which can result in dental decay. This can eventually cause cavities or holes in your teeth along with infections, sometimes leading to the removal of teeth.
- Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste is one of the most effective ways to prevent dental decay.
- If your child is younger than three, brush their teeth twice a day using a smear of fluoride toothpaste (at least 1,000 ppm).
- If your child is between three and six, make sure you help them brush their teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste with more than 1,000 ppm fluoride (no more than a pea-sized amount).
- Adults should brush their teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste with between 1,350 and 1,500 ppm fluoride.
- Young children tend to swallow some toothpaste while brushing their teeth. Make sure to help out or supervise young children while brushing.
Recently, some people have voiced concerns that mineral fluoride may be the cause of health problems. No convincing clinical evidence has been found to support these concerns or to suggest that fluoride causes health problems.
If children are exposed to an excessive amount of fluoride for a long time during development, they can develop a condition called dental fluorosis. This can happen to children younger than seven who are living in areas with a fluoridated water supply and also taking fluoride supplements. It can also happen when a child swallows too much fluoride toothpaste.
Mild dental fluorosis can look like very fine white pearly lines or flecking on the surface of the teeth. Your dentist will be able to determine if your child has mild fluorosis. Severe dental fluorosis can cause the enamel to become rough or discolored. Severe fluorosis is rare.
According to dental experts, more individuals are using toothpaste without fluoride. Fluoride is the most vital ingredient in toothpaste, though, and this makes people who use fluoride-free toothpaste more prone to developing cavities. Clinical studies suggest that only flossing or only brushing your teeth with a fluoride-free toothpaste isn’t enough to reduce cavities.
After your teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild weakened enamel and reverses signs of dental decay. When you use fluoride toothpaste or other dental products with fluoride, you apply the mineral to your tooth’s surface.
A review published in the journal Gerodontology states that without a clear explanation about the importance of fluoride, some people may select toothpaste without fluoride or stop using effective therapeutic options such as fluoride rinses. The review further states that people who reduce their exposure to fluoride because of their beliefs have an increased risk of dental cavities.
Fluoride is in most toothpastes, and it is an important cavity blocker.
Science has shown that toothpaste with fluoride and fluoridated water, milk, and salt provide great benefits to your dental health and help decrease dental decay. They also don’t cause any adverse effects on your general health.
Using fluoride toothpaste is better at preventing tooth decay than using fluoride-free toothpaste. The stronger the concentration of fluoride in the toothpaste, the more it prevents tooth decay.
Fluoride at the recommended levels in community sources of water and toothpaste is effective and safe. Your doctor or dentist can help you determine the best toothpaste and brushing frequency for you and your children.
Fluoride toothpaste is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay and keep your teeth healthy.