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Fluoride for Teeth

Fluoride for Teeth

Fluoride is very important for the health of your teeth. But in addition to choosing a fluoride toothpaste, you should also consider the benefits of drinking water that has fluoride in it.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a natural mineral that, like calcium, helps protect your teeth from decay. Fluoride is often contained in toothpaste or drinking water; however, it’s also a natural component of many of the foods we eat. Like many vitamins and minerals, fluoride does not harm your body; in many cases, it actually helps.

Most notably, fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to tooth decay. Fluoride also helps to restore the mineral balance of tooth enamel that is beginning to decay because of acids or bacteria. When applied to the tooth, the enamel can remineralise and repair itself before a physical cavity is formed.

What Does Fluoride Do?

Like other minerals, fluoride is normally absorbed in our bodies as we eat a balanced diet. However, when added to oral care products and municipal water sources, it has been scientifically shown to significantly lower the rate of tooth decay in those communities.

When fluoride is applied to a weak area of tooth enamel, the mineral helps strengthen that portion of the tooth and reverse the early stages of tooth decay (demineralisation.) It can also help combat tooth sensitivity, especially in gum recession or enamel erosion.

Our bones use both calcium and fluoride to create strong, dense tissues. That’s why fluoride levels need to be both ingested and applied to teeth topically, helping the body inside and outside with strong tooth and bone structures.

Fluoride Toothpaste: How Does Fluoride Protect Teeth?

Fluoride toothpaste provides topical benefits, remineralising weak enamel that it comes into contact with directly. However, toothpaste contains a higher fluoride concentration than tap water, so it should not be ingested. It is strictly for topical use.

Fluoride is effective in preventing tooth decay in both children and adults. Using the right amount of toothpaste is crucial to protecting your teeth. Experts recommend that adults use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children who cannot rinse or spit well should use a rice-grain-sized smear of toothpaste; this includes infants and toddlers once their teeth begin to erupt.

Over-the-counter fluoride toothpaste works well for patients of all ages. However, be sure to read the labels and select the blend of toothpaste most appropriate for your needs (i.e., whitening, tartar control, etc.)

For fluoride toothpaste to be effective, it should be used as directed. Tooth brushing should last at least two minutes at a time, at least twice a day.

Occasionally, we may need to prescribe a stronger concentration of fluoride toothpaste. This prescription-strength gel is used to remineralise moderate to severe areas of enamel demineralisation or to protect people with a high risk of tooth decay.

Benefits of Fluoride

There are many dental benefits of fluoride for both adults and children. Fluoride strengthens teeth from the outside and the inside, making them stronger and more resistant to decay. Fluoride also fights the acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay. Additionally, fluoride can reverse early signs of tooth decay and encourages strong tooth and bone development.

When used correctly, fluoride may also help prevent bone loss in people with Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The amount of fluoride that is safe for people to take is generally under 10 mg daily. However, it’s best to take special precautions if you are pregnant.

Water Fluoridation in Australia

Approximately ninety per cent of Australians have access to fluoridated drinking water. However, many Australians still drink unfluoridated surface water. Some rely on well water, dams, rivers, creeks, or bottled water, where fluoride levels vary or are not regulated whatsoever.

Fluoridated water supplies provide a large public health benefit. However, the community typically makes the decision to add fluoride to drinking water in an informed and democratic way.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) regularly examines the evidence for water fluoridation. Water fluoridation is regulated by state and territory governments, which each set regulations regarding fluoride concentrations and water quality. These regulations are appropriate and necessary to ensure the safety of drinking water and vary depending on factors such as natural fluoride levels and the time of the year. If you are seeking information on the fluoridation of drinking water, contact your state or territory health department.

Most Australian communities have been adding fluoride to their municipal water sources for over 50 years. It is one of the most effective ways to lower childhood tooth decay and recurring cavities in communities, regardless of socioeconomic status. Levels are highly monitored, with an extremely small amount of mineral being added to the water, bringing it up to approximately one part per million as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Fluoride in water

Fluoride Side Effects: Is Fluoride Safe?

While fluoride is generally safe, too much fluoride can lead to negative effects (just like any other vitamin or mineral.)

For instance, ingesting large amounts of fluoride can cause an upset stomach. At the same time, repeated high levels of fluoride ingestion could cause muscle problems, weak bones, and irregular tooth development.

To avoid potential side effects, it’s important to use fluoride products such as toothpaste and mouth rinse as directed. Additionally, do not provide fluoride supplements to young children or infants unless specifically instructed to do so by your dentist or paediatrician. Excessive supplementation can result in enamel fluorosis, which may not present itself until several years later.

Because some water sources are not regulated for natural mineral levels—such as well water—it may be possible for a family to experience enamel fluorosis without being aware of the consequences until several years later.

Dental Fluorosis

Dental fluorosis is one example of excessive fluoride ingestion during tooth development. Fluorosis occurs when extremely high levels of fluoride cause hypercalcification throughout the tooth structure, resulting in brown patches, white spots, and enamel mottling. The results may not be visible for years, especially in young children, until the permanent teeth erupt.

Fluorosis typically occurs in one of two scenarios. One is drinking water with extremely high levels of naturally occurring fluoride; this is most common if the water is coming from a well or other natural water source without municipal filtration. Two is supplementing with high fluoride concentrations during a child’s early stages of tooth development.

While teeth with enamel fluorosis are extremely strong and usually very cavity-resistant, they pose significant aesthetic concerns. In most cases, cosmetic restorations such as crowns or veneers are required to address how these teeth look.

The best way to avoid enamel fluorosis is to use fluoride products as directed, at the instruction of your dentist, physician, or paediatrician.

Should I Use Fluoride?

Fortunately, the benefits of fluoride use far outweigh any potential risks— when used as directed. When included in your oral care products, fluoride helps reduce your chances of developing cavities, remineralises weak areas of tooth enamel, and safeguards at-risk smiles in people with orthodontic appliances or gum recession.

We may recommend using fluoride supplements if you fit specific risk factors, such as a dry mouth or a high frequency of tooth decay. However, we are always happy to discuss those benefits with you so that you feel confident about using these products. When paired with daily flossing and preventative checkups, small amounts of fluoride can significantly improve the long-term health of your smile.

Fluoride Treatment in Caulfield North

Hawthorn Road Family Dental may recommend supplemental fluoride treatment if you have sensitive teeth, dry mouth, gum recession, or are prone to frequent cavities. We typically suggest a fluoride treatment after every scale and clean, especially for young children and orthodontic patients.

Contact our office for more information about fluoride and how it helps promote strong teeth. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Dr. Mahima Krongold

Dr. Mahima Krongold

Dr Krongold has been practicing dentistry for over twenty years. She has background experience dealing with a diverse range of dental issues, which vary significantly from individual to individual. Her experience has been built upon by her endless thirst for practical and technological advancement in the field of crowns, implants, bridge work, root canals, endodontics, teeth whitening and cosmetic work. Dr Krongold is a family dentist with three children. Children's dentistry is a specialised area for her, particularly encompassing oral hygiene and dental comfort.

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