What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. It is present in natural water sources and found in small quantities in certain foods. It is essential in dentistry because of its ability to prevent cavities. Tooth decay is preventable, but still affects most of the world’s population.

The Canadian Dental Association supports the use of fluorides in dentistry. As well, they support fluoridation in municipal drinking water to protect teeth against decay.

Sources of fluoride:

Community water fluoridation– In 1945, communities in Canada began adjusting the fluoride levels in their drinking water to prevent decay. The optimal fluoride level in drinking water is 0.7 parts per million in Canada. As a result, this change reduces tooth decay in Canadians.


Toothpaste and mouthrinses– The majority of toothpaste contain fluoride. However, those with a higher cavity risk need higher concentrations. Some mouthrinses contain fluoride listed in the medicinal ingredients section. These are labeled as anti-cavity rinses.

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Supplements- Fluoride tablets or drops are not needed by most Canadians. People who do not live in areas with a fluoridated water supply may need supplements . Before use, always consult with a dental professional.

Professionally applied fluoride treatments– Depending on your cavity risk, your dental professional may include fluoride in your treatment plan. Different treatment application methods include rinses, gels, foams and varnishes.

How does fluoride prevent decay?

While eating and drinking certain foods, the pH level in our mouth changes to an acidic level. While in an acidic state, demineralization of tooth enamel occurs. Demineralization describes the dissolving and loss of minerals in our teeth. Fluoride protects teeth against demineralization. Additionally, it keeps the enamel layer of teeth strong and resistant to acids. It also remineralizes and reverses damage done by the acids. Additionally, if affects the bacteria in our mouths and interferes with the acid production.

Fluoride can be delivered topically or systemically. Topical delivery is most effective at preventing decay.

Topical- Toothpastes, rinses and professionally applied treatments are all topical applications. These protect the teeth already present in the mouth.

Systemic- Involves drinking fluoridated water or ingesting supplements. This is especially beneficial during tooth development. If a child is drinking fluoridated water, this strengthens their developing teeth. Drinking fluoridated water also has topical benefits since it touches the teeth. As well, it increases the level of fluoride found in the saliva.

Considerations for fluoride use:

When a child ingests too much fluoride during tooth development, dental fluorosis occurs. Fluorosis ranges from mild to severe. Mild fluorosis affects the look of the teeth, which results in white specks, and a chalky appearance. Severe fluorosis affects all teeth results in brown staining and pitting.

To lower the risk of dental fluorosis, ensure that children do not ingest fluoride. Children at risk of swallowing toothpaste need careful monitoring during brushing. Children under three years of age  only need a grain of rice sized amount of toothpaste. If the cavity risk is low, a non-fluoridated toothpaste may be recommended by your dental professional.

Drinking water from a well needs to be tested to determine the level of fluoride. A high level increases the risk of dental fluorosis. However, in the correct amounts, fluoride is safe and effective. Contact us for more information and dental fluorosis treatment options.

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