When the use of fluoride is combined with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, the risk for decay is reduced even further.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a compound that contains the natural element known as fluorine. Routinely using small amounts of fluoride can help prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that in places with community water fluoridation, decay rates have reduced by over 50 per cent and children grow up with fewer cavities. Where fluoride is not available in the community water, the use of toothpaste, mouth rinses and professionally applied gels and varnishes containing fluoride as the active ingredient is highly recommended to help reduce tooth decay.
How does fluoride prevent cavities?
When sugar is broken down, it forms an acid which attacks and weakens the tooth enamel by causing the loss of minerals and creating cavities. Fluoride helps prevent this loss of minerals and encourages strengthening of the enamel in areas where cavities are just beginning to develop. Fluoride also affects the bacteria that help in causing the acid attacks on the teeth. When the use of fluoride is combined with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, the risk for decay is reduced even further.
Is fluoride safe?
There is confirmation from clinical studies that fluoride use in the appropriate quantities for the prevention and control of tooth decay is both safe and highly effective. However, products containing fluoride should be stored out of reach of young children.
What happens if my child swallows fluoridated toothpaste while brushing?
To avoid ingesting excessive amounts of fluoride, always monitor children to make sure that they are using the correct amount of fluoride toothpaste for their age. This should be a smear amount for children less than three years of age and a pea-size amount for children aged 3-8 twice daily.
My child’s dentist suggests fluoride varnish? What is it for?
Topical fluoride is used and applied by a dental professional to prevent tooth decay. It comes in the form of gels, foams and varnish. Gels or foams are placed in trays and held against the teeth for up to 4 minutes while fluoride varnish is “painted” on teeth.
Comparison of a smear (left) with a pea-sized (right) amount
(Image: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry)