Fluoride—Sources, Treatments, and Supplements

Fluoride has been raising some controversy lately. Should municipal water be fluoridated? How much fluoride is too much? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), this naturally found mineral can prevent cavities and even repair teeth in the early stages of tooth decay. While tap water is your first line of defense, if your tap water doesn't have added fluoride, talk to your dentist to find out how you'd benefit from other sources.

Fluoride Sources

Fluoride in municipal water

According to the ADA, widespread water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.

While some question its safety and effectiveness, the ADA supports the fluoridation of community water based on scientific research. They discredit claims against fluoridation as "pseudo-scientific literature." Instead, they recommend that all community water contain the optimal amount of 0.7 ppm (part per million) of fluoride. This amount of fluoride translates to an optimal amount for the prevention of tooth decay.

You can check the level of fluoride in your municipal water by contacting your local water supplier. If your water comes from a well, you will need to have it professionally tested. If your water contains less than one ppm of fluoride, discuss your options with your dentist.

Finding ways to make sure you are getting the amount of fluoride you need in your drinking water, or supplementing your fluoride is easy, as there are several options.

Using fluoride toothpaste

Using a fluoride toothpaste is the best and most popular way to keep your teeth healthy. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste or another item that includes fluoride in its ingredient list. Remember to use a soft-bristled toothbrush to keep your enamel safe from physical abrasion; hard bristles can be harmful over time. Fluoride mouth rinses also can help children with a history of cavities or a high risk of tooth decay.

Office treatments

If you are at risk for tooth decay or aren't getting enough fluoride in your drinking water, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments at the office. With these types of treatments, your dentist or dental hygienist will use one of several fluoride treatment options:

  1. Foam applied into a soft tray that the patient would bite into for 1 minute
  2. Fluoride rinse that the patient would swish for 1 minute
  3. Fluoride varnish that the dental hygienist would apply directly to the teeth

After the treatment, you may be asked not to rinse, eat or drink for at least 30 minutes to allow the teeth to absorb the fluoride.

At-home fluoride treatments

At-home fluoride treatments are available for people with a high risk of tooth decay, such as those with dry mouth or who are receiving radiation treatments. If your dentist does determine that you can benefit from these applications, they will give you a prescription fluoride gel to apply on your own.

Bottled water

With the onset of bottled water, more and more people aren't getting the recommended amount of fluoride. Most bottled water brands don't contain fluoride. If you drink mostly bottled water, you may be missing out on this vital mineral. And, you should also check with your dental professional to see if they recommend a fluoride treatment or supplement.

Several factors affect whether or not you're getting enough fluoride, including:

  • The fluoride level in your bottled water, which can vary significantly by brand. If the fluoride content does not appear on the label, contact the company and ask.
  • The amount of bottled water you drink during the day
  • Whether you use bottled water for drinking, cooking or reconstituting soups, juices, and other drinks
  • Whether you also drink fluoridated water at school, work or elsewhere

Fluoride Supplements

Fluoride supplements come in the form of lozenges, tablets or liquids and can be purchased in most drug stores or online. It is recommended that you discuss any use of over the counter fluoride supplements with your dentist before purchasing or using them.

Whether it be through your tap water, bottled water, toothpaste, or supplemental treatments, it is important to be aware if you are getting enough fluoride to meet ADA recommendations and protect your teeth. The ADA offers a handy guide of fluoridation facts, and fortunately, there are a lot of options available to you to keep your teeth and their enamel healthy.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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You can get the benefits of fluoride from different places. It can work from an external source and from the inside of your body. To work the best, you need to get it from both. At home, you and your family should brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes, especially after eating breakfast and before bedtime.