How important is fluoride?

How important is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance that is used to help prevent dental caries (tooth decay). It can be found in natural water sources & foods, as well as added in small amounts to water supplies and many toothpastes. (

Dental caries is the process where bacteria creates acid on the tooth surface, which cause minerals to be leached out of the tooth, a process known as demineralisation. Fluoride helps to replace the minerals in the tooth and increase the tooth’s resistance to acid attack, and therefore reduce the risk of dental caries, and reverse some early decay lesions.

Fluoride works best at a topical level, that is, when it in direct contact with the tooth surface. Fluoride added to water supplies and toothpastes allow for this topical action to occur. It is also most effective when applied in low doses over a long period, as opposed to large, one-off doses.

The concentration of fluoride added to water supplies is 1 part per million (ppm); fluoride can be found naturally in water sources at levels much higher than the added rate. Fluoride can also be found in foods such as tea and some seafoods. The concentration of fluoride in toothpaste varies, from 500ppm in children’s toothpastes up to 5,000ppm for high fluoride varieties. Generally, normal adult strength toothpaste contains 1,450ppm of fluoride. Topical, professionally applied fluoride at the dentist can vary in strength from 9,000 to 22,000ppm in gels and varnishes.

Fluoride varnishes used at the dentist can reduce the risk of decay by up to 40%. Fluoride toothpastes can reduce caries rates by about 24%.

While it is acknowledged that fluoride may have negative side effects when consumed in large quantities, the concentrations found in most water supplies and toothpastes is safe for use for both children and adults. However, excessive exposure to fluoride in children should be avoided due to the risk of fluorosis. This mainly comes in the form of children eating tubes of toothpaste, especially adult strength or high fluoride toothpaste, or with the use of fluoride supplements. It is also important to weight he benefits of fluoride against the risks of fluoride.

If you have any questions about fluoride and your oral health, come and see our wonderful oral hygiene department.

To make your next appointment phone our lovely front desk on 02 4961 6300 or click to direct book online

Emily Smith

Oral Health Therapist

Boulton Dental, Newcastle NSW

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