Fluoride is well known for helping to strengthen teeth. Not many people actually know what fluoride is; they just know it’s something that benefits their mouth. Fluoride is often referred to as nature’s cavity fighter – and for good reason! Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral, helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making the outer surface of your enamel more resistant to the acid attacks that cause tooth decay. We take a look at fluoride and explain what it is all about.

What is Fluoride and What Does it Do?

Fluoride is a mineral that’s found throughout the earth’s crust and widely distributed in nature and occurs naturally in many foods and water. Every day, minerals are added to and lost from a tooth’s enamel layer through two processes, demineralization and remineralization. Minerals are lost (a process known as demineralization) from a tooth’s enamel layer when acids formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth attack the enamel. Minerals such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate are redeposited (remineralization) to the enamel layer from the foods and waters consumed. Too much demineralization without enough remineralization to repair the enamel layer leads to tooth decay. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. It also reverses early decay. In children under 6 years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth. Fluoride also helps speed remineralization as well as disrupts acid production in already erupted teeth of both children and adults.

How Do I Get Fluoride?

Drink water with fluoride.
Fluoride is naturally found in most water sources, rivers, lakes, wells and even the oceans. For the past 70 years, fluoride has been added to public water supplies to bring fluoride levels up to the amount necessary to help prevent tooth decay. Studies have repeatedly shown that when fluoride is added to a community’s water supply, tooth decay decreases. In the 1930s, researchers found that people who grew up drinking naturally fluoridated water had up to two-thirds fewer cavities than people living in areas without fluoridated water. Studies prove water fluoridation continues to help prevent tooth decay by at least 25 percent in children and adults, even with fluoride available from other sources, such as toothpaste.  Today, nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population is served by fluoridated community water systems.

Use Toothpaste and Mouthwash with Fluoride:
Toothpaste with fluoride has been responsible for a significant drop in cavities since 1960. Look for one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to make sure it contains fluoride. Brush twice a day or as directed by your dentist and physician. For children younger than 3, start brushing their teeth as soon as they start to appear in the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children 3 to 6 years old, use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Always supervise your child’s brushing to make sure they use the right amount and try to get your child to spit out most of the toothpaste. Mouthwash with fluoride can help make your teeth more resistant to decay, but children six years or younger should not use it unless recommended by a dentist. Many children younger than 6 are more likely to swallow it than spit it out because their swallowing reflexes aren’t fully developed.

 Get a Professional Fluoride Treatments:
Professional fluoride treatments are given in a dental office. They are applied as a gel, foam or varnish. The fluoride used for these treatments has a higher strength than over-the-counter or prescription mouthwashes or toothpastes.

Can Fluoride Cause Harm?

Fluoride is safe and effective when used properly. All water-fluoridation systems are checked daily to maintain safe fluoride levels for drinking. Parents should supervise the use of all fluoride products in the home.

Fluoride-supplement tablets should be stored safely away from young children. These supplements are taken each day in small quantities. The dose can range from 0.25 to 1 milligram per day. The dose is based on the child’s risk of cavities, the child’s age and the amount of fluoride in the water. In 2010, the American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs recommended fluoride supplements only for children who have a high risk of cavities. This advice applies regardless of the amount of fluoride in the child’s drinking water. Dentists tend to limit the number of tablets they prescribe at one time to reduce the risk of overdose. To avoid any chance of overdose, do not stock up on fluoride tablets in your home. If you have any questions regarding fluoride risks, talk to your dentist or physician.

Toxic fluoride doses are based on weight. For example, the toxic dose of fluoride for a 2-year-old child weighing 22 pounds is 320 milligrams. For an 8-year-old child weighing 45 pounds, the toxic dose is 655 milligrams. In comparison, an 8-ounce glass of water fluoridated contains 0.25 milligrams of fluoride. Since these fluoride products are used in such small amounts, it is very difficult to receive toxic doses when using fluoride products at home.

All children should use fluoridated toothpaste, but you should encourage them to spit out as much as possible. Avoid flavored toothpastes that might encourage swallowing. Swallowing toothpaste while teeth are developing can cause a cosmetic defect known as fluorosis. Mild fluorosis appears as white specks on the tooth. For many people, this is not noticeable. Swallowing larger amounts of fluoride can cause “mottled” brown enamel. This is unusual and occurs mainly in areas that have naturally high levels of fluoride in the water.

 

If you have any questions about fluoride, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.