03.Flouride - the facts
Fluoride protects your teeth in three ways.
- It improves the chemical structure of the enamel, making it more resistant to acid.
- Reduces the ability of bacteria on your teeth to produce acid.
- Promotes repair of early damage to the enamel.
According to Philippa Sawyer from the Australian Dental Association, fluoride should be the first consideration when choosing a toothpaste, no matter how old you are. “There’s a miscomprehension out there that fluoride is just for kids, but everyone needs it. A small, constant intake is perfect.” She says Australian guidelines for adults recommend twice daily brushing using a pea-sized amount on the brush. Applying topical fluoride when brushing removes plaque and gives a fluoride treatment.
Can you get too much?
Too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, a condition where the teeth’s enamel surface becomes mottled in appearance. Most fluorosis is mild and doesn’t damage teeth, and occurs only during tooth development in early childhood, so older children and adults aren’t at risk. Although it’s more common in fluoridated areas, it can occur in other areas as well. Most fluorosis seems to be associated with children swallowing too much fluoride.
Fluorosis levels have halved since the early 1990s, with the wider use of low-fluoride children’s toothpastes and recommendations that kids in areas where water is fluoridated use only very small amounts of toothpaste – no more than a pea-sized smear of low-fluoride toothpaste until the age of six. It’s also important to supervise young children when they are using toothpaste so they don’t eat large quantities.
Read more about fluoride in toothpaste and the water supply.