Dental decay is a common disease in North America. One way to help prevent decay is by using fluoride. Fluoride is a trace element found in water, plants and many foods.

Fluoride helps harden the tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to tooth decay. A small cavity can be stopped and even reversed by a process called “remineralization”, which is enhanced by fluoride.

Fluoride can be delivered to the teeth in many ways. These include:

  • fluoridated water — Some water supplies already naturally contain fluoride, for others, fluoride is added to the water supply. Three percent of the population in BC has access to fluoridated water. If you would like to know if your community’s water supply contains fluoride, call your local water authority or health department.
  • toothpaste – A fluoridated toothpaste should be used daily. Look for the Canadian Dental Association “Seal of Acceptance” on the label when choosing a toothpaste.
  • mouth rinses – Mouth rinses that contain fluoride can be purchased over-the-counter. These products are useful for children over 6 years of age and adults who are susceptible to cavities.
  • fluoride gels –These products can be purchased over-the-counter and are useful for those who are highly susceptible to cavities. These people could include people who;
    • have a high experience of root cavities
    • experience an extremely dry mouth
    • wear braces or orthodontic appliances
    • have rampant or excessive cavities
    • have tooth sensitivity
  • professional fluoride application – These are stronger fluorides and are available only at a dental office. Not everyone is given a professional fluoride application as it depends on your dental health needs. They are commonly recommended for children and those listed above.
  • supplements (tablet, lozenge, drop) – These products may be recommended for people at high risk for tooth decay. Ask your dental professional about supplements.

Fluoride Safety

  • Fluoride is very effective in controlling dental decay when used properly.
  • Use only a small amount of toothpaste; starting with just a smear of toothpaste when baby teeth first come into the mouth. You can gradually increase the toothpaste so that you are using an amount the size of a small pea by the time all the teeth have erupted.
  • Fluoridated products, especially mouth rinses should not be given to a child under 6 years of age, or to anyone who cannot spit.
  • Keep fluoridated products out of the reach of children. Parental supervision is needed when children are using fluoridated products.