Fluoride & Preventing Tooth Decay

The appropriate use of fluoride is an important health measure for preventing tooth decay. Systematic research reviews have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of fluoride in reducing the risk of tooth decay.

Provided that the total daily intake of fluoride is carefully monitored, fluoride is considered to be a most important health measure in maintaining oral health for all Canadians.

(Source: Canadian Dental Association)

What is fluoride?

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How does fluoride work?

Fluoride helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay in 3 ways:

  1. It makes the tooth stronger and more resistant to tooth decay.
  2. It can repair tooth surfaces where early tooth decay has occurred.
  3. It inhibits bacteria from producing acids that cause tooth decay.

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What are sources of fluoride?

  • Fluoride is found to some extent in all food and fresh water.
  • Fluoride may be added to community water supplies that have low levels of naturally occurring fluoride.
  • Fluoride is also found in other sources, which include:
    • Topical Fluoride/Fluoride Varnish
      • Dental professionals may apply fluoride directly to tooth surfaces in the form of fluoride gels, foams and varnishes in the prevention of tooth decay for individuals at risk.
    • Fluoride toothpaste
      • Individuals apply fluoride directly to tooth surfaces in the form of fluoride toothpastes and may use fluoride mouth rinses if necessary.
      • A child may start using fluoride toothpaste when they are able to spit (which normally occurs at the age of 3), or when advised by a dental professional.
      • All adults and children 3-years and older should brush their teeth at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. Only a minimal amount or "smear" of fluoride toothpaste is necessary.
      • Excessive swallowing of fluoride toothpaste by young children can result in dental fluorosis .
      • All children should be supervised or assisted when brushing until they develop appropriate manual dexterity.
    • Fluoride mouth rinses
      • Fluoride mouth rinses are an effective preventive measure for at-risk individuals.
      • To determine if fluoride mouth rinses are appropriate for you, consult your dental professional.
      • They are not recommended for children under 6 years of age.
    • Fluoride supplements
      • Fluoride supplements are unnecessary for individuals who are receiving adequate fluoride from other sources.
      • Health professionals may prescribe fluoride supplements for individuals who are at high risk of tooth decay after completing an analysis of the patient's fluoride intake.
      • Parents should consult with their dentist to determine whether fluoride supplements are appropriate for their child.
      • Fluoride supplements may be in the form of chewable tablets, lozenges or drops.

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