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Why Look For Fluoride In Toothpaste

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Plenty of naturally occurring minerals can do wonders for your body. Calcium keeps your bones strong, iron delivers oxygen to your blood cells, and zinc helps your immune system function properly. Another mineral found in soil and rocks that protects your body is fluoride.

Fluoride is added to toothpaste to improve its benefit to the health of your teeth. In recent decades, fluoride in toothpaste has significantly reduced cavities and improved people's overall health worldwide.

What Fluoride Does

Fluoride helps your tooth enamel in two ways: When a person's teeth are still beginning to emerge, this ingredient develops the enamel so that it becomes as hard as it needs to be to resist cavities and decay. After the teeth have appeared in the mouth, fluoride in toothpaste, mouthwash and even tap water helps the enamel remain strong so that it can resist the acid produced by oral bacteria when you eat sugary foods. Fluoride also has a remineralizing effect on the teeth, by which it helps rebuild worn-down or weakened enamel before it disappears.

Why It's in Toothpaste

There are several ways a person can get fluoride into their body. One way is by drinking water that contains fluoride. About three-quarters of the public water supply in the U.S. is fluoridated, as the American Dental Association (ADA) notes, so many people can get fluoride just by using their tap. Another option, usually for people without access to fluoridated water or who have reasons not to drink it, is to take fluoride supplements or have a dentist or dental hygienist apply a fluoride varnish during a routine appointment.

Drinking fluoridated water can help protect the teeth from decay, but the amount of fluoride in water is not always sufficient for full protection. Another reason, suggests the ADA, is that putting fluoride in toothpaste has led to a significant decrease in the number of cavities Americans have had since 1960. Containing fluoride is also one of the requirements a toothpaste must meet before it can earn the Seal of Acceptance from the ADA – a major credential and proof of ability in today's oral care products. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recommends and supports fluoride toothpaste worldwide, particularly in areas that don't (or are unable to) fluoridate their water.

How to Choose a Toothpaste

Although there are items that do not contain fluoride, it's still one of the most important ingredients to look for when choosing toothpaste. In addition to the ADA Seal, those are the two most important things to look for in your toothpaste. Other features, such as flavor and texture – whether a paste or a gel – are really a matter of preference.

If you have particular concerns, such as sensitive teeth, or gingivitis, consider a fluoride toothpaste that contains additional ingredients that cater to these issues—an enamel-building or tartar-control toothpaste are, for example.

Using Fluoride Toothpaste

To get the most out of your toothpaste, you'll want to use it as directed by a dental professional. Typically, brushing your teeth at least twice a day is a staple of your routine. The amount you can use, however, depends on the age of the person brushing. No more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is typically recommended for kids between the ages of three and six, whereas a dab the size of a grain of rice will work for kids under three.

For added protection, particularly if your dentist or dental hygenist recommends it, you and any children over six years old can also swish with a mouthwash that contains fluoride after brushing.

Remember that brushing your teeth is just the first step to getting a healthy mouth. Minimizing the number of cavity-causing foods you eat (such as candy) and seeing your dentist and dental hygienist for regular professional dental hygiene appointments will both go a long way to making your teeth healthy and strong.

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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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