What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that is found all around us in small amounts. It is very effective in protecting teeth against decay.
Public health experts have known for many years that fluoride protects teeth. Some parts of America have natural fluoride in their water, and more than 50 yrears ago, dentists noticed that people living there had strong, healthy teeth.
How does fluoride work?
We all have bacteria in our mouths all the time. They live on food that is left in the mouth and produce acids as a waste product. The acids attack the teeth by dissolving minerals in the tooth surface.
Luckily, there are mineralsin saliva which can mend the teeth when decay first starts, but the mending process needs fluoride to work properly.
- In a few places, water supplies contain enough fluoride to keep teeth healthy. This can happen naturally, or the amount of fluoride can be changed to make it right for teeth. In Britain, only one person in ten gets enough fluoride from the water supply;
- Most people get fluoride from toothpaste. Packs tell you how many parts per million (ppm) of fluoride the toothpaste contains. It might have a low fluoride level (around 500ppm) or a higher dose (1000 or 1500ppm). You should use low-dose toothpastes for children under seven;
- For a few patients, dentists recommend they take extra fluoride, either as tablets or drops, or as a varnish painted onto the teeth. Extra fluoride is only recommended for patients with very bad decayor who have illnesses that make it especially important to avoid dental problems.
The amount of fluoride you get in water or toothpaste is completely safe. If there is fluoride in your local water supply, you can still use fluoride toothpaste as well.
There is on thing to be careful about when children use fluoride toothpaste. Up to the age of seven, while the permanent teeth are still forming, too much fluoride can produce marks on the teeth. To be sure this will not happen, you should help children up to the age of seven clean their teeth to make sure they do not eat the toothpaste and only use a small amount of toothpaste on their brush (about the size of a pea is recommended).
What are the benefits of fluoride?
- Fluoride helps teeth stay healthy and strong;
- Fluoride can help heal early decay;
- You will need less dental treatment;
- Healthy teeth look better than repaired teeth.