Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in water, soil, and some foods. It has been shown to be effective in preventing tooth decay, especially when used in conjunction with good oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing.
How does fluoride work?
Fluoride works by strengthening tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of the tooth. When you eat and drink, bacteria in your mouth produce acid that can wear away the enamel and cause cavities. Fluoride helps to remineralize the enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks.
How much fluoride do you need?
The amount of fluoride you need depends on your age and other factors such as the amount of fluoride in your drinking water. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following amounts of fluoride:
|0-3 years||No fluoride supplements necessary if water contains 0.6-1.2 ppm fluoride|
|3-6 years||0.25 mg/day if water contains less than 0.6 ppm fluoride||6-16 years||1.0 mg/day if water contains less than 0.6 ppm fluoride|
|16 years and older||1.0 mg/day if water contains less than 0.6 ppm fluoride|
It's important to note that too much fluoride can be harmful, especially for young children whose teeth are still developing. If you're unsure about how much fluoride you or your child needs, talk to your dentist.
How can you get fluoride?
There are several ways to get fluoride:
- Drinking water: Most public water systems in the United States are fluoridated, which means they have added fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. If you're not sure whether your water is fluoridated, check with your local water authority.
- Toothpaste: Most toothpastes contain fluoride. Look for toothpastes that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means they've been tested and found to be effective and safe.
- Mouthwash: Some mouthwashes contain fluoride. Look for mouthwashes that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Supplements: Your dentist may recommend fluoride supplements if you're not getting enough fluoride from other sources.
- Treatments: Your dentist may apply fluoride directly to your teeth in the form of a gel, foam, or varnish.
Is fluoride safe?
Yes, fluoride is safe when used as directed. However, too much fluoride can be harmful, especially for young children whose teeth are still developing. This can cause a condition called fluorosis, which can cause white spots or streaks on the teeth. In severe cases, it can cause brown spots and pitting. It's important to follow your dentist's recommendations for dental health and fluoride use and to supervise young children when they're brushing their teeth to make sure they're not swallowing too much toothpaste.
Fluoride is a safe and effective way to prevent cavities in both children and adults. It works by strengthening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria in the mouth. The best way to get fluoride is through drinking water, which is fluoridated in most public water systems in the United States. You can also get fluoride from toothpaste, mouthwash, supplements, and treatments applied by your dentist. Talk to your dentist about how much fluoride you and your family need and follow their recommendations for fluoride use to ensure the best possible oral health.
Recommendations for Further Reading
- Community Water Fluoridation - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Fluoride - American Dental Association
- Fluoride - MouthHealthy.org
- The Role of Fluoride in the Prevention of Tooth Decay - National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Water Fluoridation: A Review of Recent Research and Actions - National Center for Biotechnology Information