Many adults remember their dentists telling them about the importance of fluoride as kids, but we often forget that it continues to be important after we’re all grown up. Take a moment to review the importance of fluoride, so you and your family can maintain good oral health and keep flashing those pearly whites with pride.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a common, natural mineral found in soil, water, and some foods. Because of its health properties, it’s frequently added to drinking water, foods, toothpaste, and other oral hygiene products.
How does fluoride help teeth?
In small doses, fluoride helps to strengthen and protect the tooth enamel, the hard outer surface of your teeth. Over time, bacteria and sugars create decay-causing acids, and the enamel of your tooth begins to wear away. Fluoride helps to repair weakened enamel and helps teeth to resist further decay. The American Dental Association (ADA) calls it “nature’s cavity fighter.”
Fluoride is particularly important for children because new teeth exposed to fluoride develop shallower grooves, making it easier to remove cavity-causing plaque. Fluoride even helps protect babies’ teeth before they break through the gums. Most babies get fluoride in their body through water or food.
How can I get enough fluoride?
Most Americans can get fluoride by drinking water. The ADA reports that drinking community fluoridated water helps to reduce cavities in children and adults by 25 percent. However, you should also brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride and use fluoridated mouthwash afterward.
Your dentist may also apply fluoride directly to your teeth with a rinse or gel if you are at particular risk for developing cavities. You may also need to take a prescription-only fluoride supplement if you live in an area without sufficient fluoride in the community drinking water or cannot drink the tap water at all.
How can I ensure that my children get enough fluoride?
Like adults, children can get fluoride through drinking water and toothpaste. If your children are under age 7, supervise their brushing daily. Ensure that they only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and that they don’t swallow it. Fluoride is safe, but children under 6 and under should have no more than 1 milligram per day. The ADA does not recommend mouthwash for young children unless their dentist advises it.