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The facts on fluoride

As a strategy to prevent or reduce cavities, fluoride gets top marks for effectiveness and ease of use. That said, myths surrounding fluoride continue to circulate. These facts from North America’s leading dental health authorities should help put your mind at ease.

What is fluoride and how does it help the teeth?
Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water, and some foods. It helps make teeth more resistant to decay and cavities, and can even reverse decay that has already begun.

How do people obtain fluoride?
The levels of fluoride found in nature aren’t high enough to protect the teeth, so many Canadian communities add fluoride to the drinking water. With thousands of studies on their side, leading medical authorities agree that water fluoridation is both effective and safe.

Children who live in non-fluoridated areas can take fluoride tablets. You can also buy fluoride toothpaste or rinses at the drugstore and get professional fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office.

How much difference does fluoride really make?
A lot. Fluoride keeps teeth stronger for life. A 2010 study confirmed that young children who drink fluoridated water are less likely to lose teeth from decay up to 50 years later! And it’s not just about preserving your child’s smile: tooth decay can affect a child’s ability to speak, learn, and sleep.

Should my child be using fluoridated toothpaste?
Young children at risk of tooth decay should brush their teeth (with adult assistance as needed) with a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Talk to your dental health professional to find out if your child is at risk and how much toothpaste to use.

Any downside?
Too much fluoride exposure in early childhood can lead to a cosmetic condition called dental fluorosis, which causes small white or brown specks to appear on the teeth. The condition is not an issue for the great majority of children (84%). Even if it does occur, the specks often go unnoticed and the dentist can treat the condition.

What about in adulthood?
The Canadian Dental Association supports the professional application of fluoride gels, foams and varnishes to help prevent cavities in higher-risk individuals. Fluoride mouth washes may also do the job. Talk to your dental health professional before using such products.

1. Fluoride myths and facts (American Academy of Pediatrics):
2. Fluoride FAQs (Canadian Dental Association):
3. CDA position on fluorides for caries prevention (Canadian Dental Association):
4. Fluoride facts (Dietitians of Canada):