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.
In What Forms Is Fluoride Available?
A dentist in his or her office can also apply fluoride to the teeth as a gel, foam, or varnish. These treatments contain a much higher level of fluoride than the amount found in toothpastes and mouth rinses. Varnishes are painted on the teeth; foams are put into a mouth guard, which is applied to the teeth for one to four minutes; gels can be painted on or applied via a mouth guard.
Fluoride supplements are also available as liquids and tablets and must be prescribed by your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor.
When Is Fluoride Intake Most Critical?
In addition, people with certain conditions may be at increased risk of tooth decay and would therefore benefit from additional fluoride treatment. They include people with:
Dry mouth conditions: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth caused by diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome, certain medications (such as allergy medications, antihistamines, antianxiety drugs, and high blood pressure drugs), and head and neck radiation treatment makes someone more prone to tooth decay. The lack of saliva makes it harder for food particles to be washed away and acids to be neutralized.
Gum disease: Gum disease, also called gingivitis, can expose more of your tooth and tooth roots to bacteria increasing the chance of tooth decay.
History of frequent cavities: If you have one cavity every year or every other year, you might benefit from additional fluoride.
Presence of crowns and/or bridges or braces: These treatments can put teeth at risk for decay at the point where the crown meets the underlying tooth structure or around the brackets of orthodontic appliances.
Ask your dentist if you could benefit from additional fluoride.
Is it going to be painful?
In addition, excess fluoride can cause defects in the tooth’s enamel that range from barely noticeable white specks or streaks to cosmetically objectionable brown discoloration. These defects are known as fluorosis and occur when the teeth are forming — usually in children younger than 6 years. Fluorosis, when it occurs, is usually associated with naturally occurring fluoride, such as that found in well water. If you use well water and are uncertain about the mineral (especially fluoride) content, a water sample should be tested. Although tooth staining from fluorosis cannot be removed with normal hygiene, your dentist may be able to lighten or remove these stains with professional-strength abrasives or bleaches.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s very difficult to reach hazardous levels given the low levels of fluoride in home-based fluoride-containing products. Nonetheless, if you do have concerns or questions about the amount of fluoride you or your child may be receiving, talk to your child’s dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor.
A few useful reminders about fluoride include:
Where Can I Find Out How Much Fluoride Is in My Tap Water?
Fluoride has been added to most water supplies in NSW, commencing with Yass in 1956.
In NSW alone there are more than 50 years of experience proving the effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation.
Most Australians have had water fluoridation for 25-50 years. NSW has one of the highest levels of water fluoridation (approximately 96% of the population has access to fluoridated water).” – Health NSW gov website
Avoid flavoured toothpastes because these tend to encourage toothpaste to be swallowed.
Use only a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on a child’s toothbrush.
Be cautious about using fluoridated toothpaste in children younger than age 6. Children younger than 6 years of age are more likely to swallow toothpaste instead of spitting it out.
I Drink Bottled Water, Am I Missing Out on the Benefits of Fluoride?
Does a Home Water Treatment System Affect the Level of Fluoride in My Drinking Water?
If you use a home water treatment system, have your water tested at least annually to establish the fluoride level your family is receiving in the treated water. Testing is available through local and state public health departments as well as private laboratories. Also, check with the manufacturer of the product you purchased or read the information that came with the water treatment system to determine the product’s effects on fluoride in your home water.
To find out how much fluoride is in your tap water, ask your local dentist, contact your local or state health department, or contact your local water supplier. Information for contacting your local water supplier should be on your water bill or see the “local government” section of your phone book.
Approximately 62% of the U.S. population served by public water supplies has access to adequate levels of fluoride in their water, and 43 of the 50 largest U.S. cities have water fluoridation systems.