Fluoride is a mineral that’s found naturally in all water sources. Research has shown that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to the acid that causes cavities.
There are two types of fluoride:
- Topical fluoride is fluoride that is applied to the teeth via gels or foams, such as the fluoride treatment patients receive at dental exams. Toothpaste containing fluoride is also topical
- Systemic fluoride is fluoride that is in food and drink and absorbed into the body when consumed. Over time the fluoride is absorbed into the body and becomes a part of saliva, which then helps strengthen teeth whenever saliva is produced. Many cities in the U.S. fluoridate their public drinking water, which helps to reduce tooth decay in the general population
The American Dental Association (ADA) strongly believes in the public health benefits of fluoridated water in preventing tooth decay, and there is no solid research showing that fluoride is harmful in any way.
Fluoride for Kids
Fluoride is beneficial for children, but its use should be monitored. Children under eight years of age are susceptible to tooth damage from excessive fluoride (called fluorosis) because their permanent teeth are still developing. Once teeth have erupted, the risk of fluoride damage is lesser, but still possible.
Because of potential tooth damage from fluoride in children under the age of three, it’s important to ensure they use fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a “smear” or the size of a grain of rice. Children ages three to six may use a small pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste as long as they are able to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
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