In What Forms Is Fluoride Available?
As mentioned, fluoride is found in foods and in water. It can also be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses. Mouth rinses containing fluoride in lower strengths are available over-the-counter; stronger concentrations require a doctor’s prescription.
A dental professional 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 toothpaste and mouth rinses. Varnishes are painted on the teeth; foams are put into a tray, which is applied to the teeth for one to four minutes; gels can be painted on or applied via a tray.
When Is Fluoride Intake Most Critical?
It is certainly important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the timeframe during which the primary and permanent teeth come in. However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. New research indicates that topical fluoride — from toothpaste, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments — are as important in fighting tooth decay as in strengthening developing teeth.
- Dry mouth conditions: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth can be caused by diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome, certain medications, and mouth breathing. 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 periodontitis, can expose more of your tooth and tooth roots to bacteria increasing the chance of tooth decay. Gingivitis is an early stage of periodontitis.
- History of frequent cavities: If you have one cavity every year or every other year, you might benefit from additional fluoride.
Ask your dentist if you could benefit from additional fluoride.
Are There Risks Associated With Fluoride Use?
Fluoride is safe and effective when used as directed but can be hazardous at high doses. For this reason, it’s important for parents to carefully supervise their children’s use of fluoride-containing products and to keep fluoride products out of reach of children, especially children under the age of 6.
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 discolouration. 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.
- Store fluoride supplements away from young children.
- Avoid flavoured toothpaste because these tend to encourage toothpaste to be swallowed.
- Use only a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on a child’s toothbrush.