Fluoride 101: Know the Facts

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound in the environment that has been proven to be safe and effective in caries prevention.

During early childhood development periods, fluoride works by making the enamel stronger during tooth formation. The enamel is the outer protective layer of the teeth, when they erupt, the enamel is the first line of defense for protection. Once, the teeth have finished with development and following their eruption, additional exposure to fluoride treatments allow the enamel to be re-mineralized and provide constant protection to your teeth from acid attacks which could otherwise lead to cavities.

This mode of action of fluoride is critical in understanding the importance of fluoridation for everyone, from young children to older adults.

Where Can I Get Access to Fluoride?

  • Water – In various communities in the United States, fluoride occurs naturally, like in communities with well water sources. Water fluoridation has also been implemented in different communities as an additive to the main water source
  • Toothpaste – Most major brands of toothpaste contain low levels of fluoride that combined with frequent brushing, helps your teeth with re-mineralization.
  • Mouthwash – The mouth rinses are a great tool to enhance fluoride protection for children older than 6 years-of-age. This is to prevent toxicity in younger children who may be unable to expectorate
  • Topical application by dental professionals – During check-up appointments depending on your needs, your dental provider can suggest the use of gels, varnishes, and foams to give your enamel a boost where minerals may be lacking.
  • Supplements – Fluoride supplements are available by prescription for children from ages 6 months to 16 years. This is normally advised as an alternative when community water fluoridation is not enough, and the child is at high risk for cavities development.

Busting the Myths

To avoid toxicity, water levels of fluoride are kept lower than the recommended amount to account for consumption via other sources. Also, the amount of fluoride found in consumer products is safe when used as directed.

Fluorosis is a condition that may develop as a result of excess fluoride exposure during the developmental stages of teeth on children.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD),

“There is confirmation from evidence-based reviews that fluoride use for the prevention and control of caries is both safe and highly effective in reducing dental caries prevalence.”

For more information regarding fluoride practices in the US, feel free to visit ada.org and adha.org.

As always, keep smiling.