Fluoride in toothpaste is nothing new; the mineral was first added to toothpaste over a century ago, and children and adults alike continue to fight tooth decay by brushing with it twice a day. And although there are various types of fluoride used in oral care, sodium fluoride toothpaste is a particularly safe and effective product.
Sodium Fluoride to Protect Your Teeth
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 95 percent of toothpaste sold contains fluoride, and over the last 30 years the decline in tooth decay in many communities is largely due to this mineral. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste gives you a topical effect; the fluoride is absorbed into the enamel of your teeth, making it stronger and more resistant to the decay-causing acids in your mouth.
Fluoride can also limit the ability of your oral bacteria to produce enamel-eroding acids, explains the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). But that's not all – as a toothpaste, it can remineralize enamel that has already begun to weaken or dissolve before it disappears. Sodium fluoride also happens to be the most common form of fluoride in mouthwashes.
How Much and What Kind
If you're wondering what kind and how much fluoride is in your toothpaste, check on the tube or packaging. You'll probably learn that the active ingredient is sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, stannous fluoride or amine fluoride. You should also be able to determine the amount or percent of volume.
Nearly all ADA Seal-carrying toothpastes contain sodium fluoride, even though it may also be formulated with additional ingredients to address oral problems other than decay – tartar, sensitivity and tooth discoloration, for instance. The amount of sodium fluoride in most Colgate toothpaste – including children's products like Colgate® Kids Cavity Protection – is 0.24 percent. However, Colgate® Cavity Protection contains 0.76 percent of sodium monofluorophosphate.
Look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance
Toothpaste containing fluoride must meet standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the FDA doesn't actually test to verify that the manufacturer is adhering to its requirements. Through wide-ranging lab testing, however, the American Dental Association (ADA) determines the fluoride content of toothpaste, how it is released and its safety and value to reducing tooth decay.
To get the ADA Seal of Acceptance for its product, a company must provide supporting documentation for all information and claims of effectiveness. "Products with the ADA Seal say what they do and do what they say," the ADA proudly states. This is why it's important to choose a brand of toothpaste with this Seal.
Who Should Use Fluoride Toothpaste
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste benefits any tooth, whether it has just erupted or has been serving the mouth healthily for decades. Although, if you have a child under the age of three, the ADA suggests using only a "smear" or "rice-sized" portion of fluoride toothpaste. For kids ages three to six, a "pea-sized" amount will do, so long as you teach them not to swallow it.
As an adult, using fluoride doesn't become any less significant. Health issues like diabetes and cancer, or taking certain medications that dry your mouth, can leave you vulnerable to tooth decay. And if your gums have receded through the years, visible root surfaces will benefit from fluoride toothpaste.
Whether you're two or 92, or already use sodium fluoride toothpaste (or one formulated with a similar compound), your teeth will only be stronger the more often you brush with it. But to give your fluoride toothpaste the best chance of success, don't forget to floss, eat healthy and visit your dentist at least every six months.