Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay. Everyday, plaque acids from bacteria attack your tooth enamel, a process called demineralization. This breakdown of the tooth enamel is what causes tooth decay. Fluoride helps make your teeth stronger because it is absorbed by tooth enamel in a process called remineralization.

Repairing your tooth enamel

Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel by replacing the calcium and phosphorous that were lost during the demineralization process.  In this way, fluoride is incorporated into your teeth and makes them more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria in the mouth. Not only can fluoride prevent tooth decay, but it can reverse early stages of the decay process!

Did you know?

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children in the U.S., making fluoride especially critical for children from tooth eruption until 16 years of age.

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued the following recommendations regarding fluoride:

  • Fluoridated toothpaste is recommended for all children starting at tooth eruption, regardless of tooth decay risk.

  • A smear (the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste should be used up to age 3. After the 3rd birthday, a pea-sized amount may be used. Parents should dispense toothpaste for young children and assist with brushing.

  • Fluoride varnish is recommended in the primary care setting every 3–6 months starting at tooth emergence.

  • Over-the counter fluoride rinse is not recommended for children younger than 6 years due to risk of swallowing higher-than-recommended levels of fluoride.

Not just for kids

Fluoride is not just for kids, though. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), research has shown that fluoride reduces cavities in both children and adults. Adults can benefit from fluoridated toothpaste, mouth rinses and professionally-applied fluoride treatments such as fluoride varnish.

Grand Avenue Dental Care offers fluoride varnish, which is a highly concentrated form of fluoride that our hygienists “paint” on the surface of the teeth. We offer fluoride varnish instead of fluoride foam/gel in trays because the application takes less time, creates less patient discomfort and delivers a high concentration of fluoride directly to the enamel in a localized application.  Because we can apply the varnish right where it's needed, the chance of ingesting excess fluoride is extremely low. In addition, patients can eat or drink almost anything immediately afterwards, with the exception of hot beverages or crunchy foods. The varnish is universally accepted for patients of all ages, whereas the ADA and American Association of Pediatric Dentistry do not recommend the gels/foams in trays or fluoride rinses for children 6 and younger because of the toxicity risk if swallowed.

Fluoridated community water

Fluoride is naturally found in most all water sources, rivers, lakes, wells and even the oceans. For the past 70 years, fluoride has been monitored in public water supplies in order to deliver optimal fluoride levels to communities.

The ADA, AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay. In fact, community water fluoridation is the considered the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.

If you drink water from a private well, or your community does not fluoridate its water, and your water does not have enough natural fluoride (0.7 parts per million is optimal), your pediatrician may prescribe fluoride tablets or drops for your children to take daily. You can call your local water district to find out if your water is fluoridated, and if your water comes from a private well you can have it analyzed by an independent environmental testing company.

Since fluoride is available in many forms, including fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses, fluoridated water and fluoride tablets, our dentists can help you evaluate whether your family is receiving an adequate level of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.