Fluoride is a common ingredient in toothpaste, but some brands are now offering natural or fluoride-free varieties. Should you opt for a fluoride-free paste for yourself or your kids? What's the truth about fluoride, and how it affects your teeth? Here is a take a look at what dentists think about the fluoride debate.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in water, soil, and certain types of food. Fluoride can also be synthesised and added to drinking water or dental hygiene products with the aim of improving dental health.
Should You Use Fluoride Toothpaste?
Dentists recommend using fluoride toothpaste every day to strengthen tooth enamel. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste creates an environment in the mouth in which high-quality enamel can form. This is particularly important in children, whose enamel is still developing, but adults can also recover from thin enamel by using fluoride toothpaste every day. Strong enamel helps to make teeth more resistant to developing cavities.
What About Fluoride in Water?
Some regions of Australia add fluoride to drinking water to help ensure people get enough of this vital mineral. Some people worry that drinking fluoridated water and using dental products that contain fluoride might result in them getting too much, but in fact, the dose in each case is very low.
Dentists say it is perfectly safe to consume fluoridated water and brush with fluoridated toothpaste every day. In fact, if you live in an area without fluoridation, you might want to consider using a fluoride foam or gel to increase your teeth's exposure to this vital mineral. If you think you might benefit from this kind of product, ask your dentist for advice.
Does Fluoride Pose Risks?
As with all good things, it is possible to get too much fluoride. If a child swallows large amounts of fluoride toothpaste, they can develop a condition called fluorosis, in which small discoloured flecks occur on the teeth. This condition does not damage the teeth, but it is unsightly. The best way to prevent your children from developing fluorosis is to encourage them to spit out the paste when they have finished brushing. If your kids haven't yet mastered spitting after brushing, you can buy children's toothpaste, which has a lower concentration of fluoride especially designed for young kids.
If you have any other questions about fluoride, the best course of action is to ask your dentist for advice. They can let you know if you would benefit from using additional fluoride products.