fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride toothpaste is a staple of good oral health since fluoride helps prevent cavities and tooth decay, and strengthens tooth enamel.

All kinds of toothpaste that are approved by the American Dental Association contain fluoride and for a good reason. Though the mechanical effects of the toothbrush bristles against the tooth surface help clean teeth, the fluoride toothpaste itself helps get rid of morning breath and prevent cavities.

Numerous studies have confirmed that fluoride in toothpaste is better for oral health since it helps curb demineralization (enamel loss), which is often the first stage of tooth decay. In many cases, the fluoride accumulates into the demineralized area to help it remineralize and strengthen the enamel. Additionally, the fluoride disrupts dental plaque (biofilm of bacteria that grows over the tooth).

Those who use fluoride toothpaste have a lower risk of tooth decay. However, toothpaste must be used in the right way. Most adults need only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and a child needs even smaller amounts.

If a child younger than eight years old frequently ingests the fluoride-containing toothpaste, the excess fluoride can damage the developing teeth, causing dental fluorosis, which causes white spots (sometimes brownish spots) on the teeth. Though in most cases, the fluorosis does not cause permanent damage, severe fluorosis can result in severe tooth discoloration and weak teeth. An even rarer condition is skeletal fluorosis where the excess fluoride accumulates in the bones and causes painful joints and muscle wasting.

What percent of fluoride is in toothpaste?

Most dentists recommended using a fluoride toothpaste for good oral health in the following amounts:

  • Children younger than three years should brush their teeth two times daily, with toothpaste containing at least 1,000 ppm fluoride (an amount larger than a rice grain but smaller than a pea).
  • Children who are three to six years old should brush at least two times daily with a pea-sized dab of toothpaste containing more than 1,000 ppm fluoride.
  • Most adults should brush at least two times daily with toothpaste containing 1,350 to 1,500 ppm fluoride.

However, dentists may advise people to use higher-strength toothpaste if there is a risk of tooth decay.

Additionally, proper oral hygiene requires regular flossing along with brushing to improve the chances of healthy teeth and gums. People should not use fluoride-containing mouthwash immediately after brushing. However, you can use it at an alternative time.

How can I get the benefits of fluoride and minimize the risk of fluorosis for my child?

Getting the right amount of fluoride is the key to good oral care. Your dentist can help determine the proper amount of fluoride for your child. Parents should supervise their children’s brushing habits until they are eight to nine years old to ensure that they use the appropriate amount of toothpaste and brush all the surfaces.

  • The entire process of brushing must last for at least two minutes, with gentle strokes and circular movements.
  • Flossing post brushing is recommended one time a day.

What are the benefits of dietary fluoride supplements?

Dietary fluoride supplements and water fluoridation can effectively prevent tooth decay. With the consumption of supplements, fluoride is incorporated into the teeth, making them more resistant to decay. The supplements provide a topical benefit because the teeth get soaked in fluoride when the lozenges or tablets are chewed. Once the fluoride is absorbed, it will be present in the saliva. This delivers fluoride to the tooth surface to help repair the enamel.

Dietary fluoride supplements should be taken only after consulting a dentist and physician. They are prescribed only for children who live in areas with poor fluoride in their community drinking water or those children who are genetically at a high risk of developing cavities.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/14/2021
References
Okano D. Are There Benefits to Using Fluoride-Free Toothpaste? University of Utah Health. https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_bfiah6xp

American Dental Association. Fluoridation FAQs. https://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation/fluoridation-faq