toothbrush, mouthwash and glass, backlit

toothbrush, mouthwash and glass, backlit

Fluoride is one of the most powerful tools we have to fight cavities, strengthen teeth, and protect enamel. One way or another, it’s become a fairly prevalent element in our daily lives, and yet it is possible for some people to not get a sufficient amount.

Maybe they just aren’t brushing their teeth properly. Maybe they’re not doing it enough. Maybe they’re using the wrong kind of toothpaste. It is extremely important to get enough fluoride every day, and there are some easy ways to do it. It often comes down to using the right toothpaste, the right mouthwash, and drinking enough water.

Fluoride in Your Water

Back in the 1940s, the country started adding fluoride to most public water supplies. While this was met with some controversy (since some people believe this is a form of compulsory mass medication), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control labeled it one of the ten great public health achievements in the 20th Century.

Is it really as important as all that? Well, this policy is believed to be responsible for a 40% to 60% drop in tooth decay in adults and children who live in fluoridated communities. This is also likely the reason why so many more people than ever before get to keep their natural teeth their entire life. It seems normal to most of us today, but previous generations just assumed that the day would come when they would have to make the switch to dentures.

One way or another, though, even if you don’t have fluoridated water in your community, almost all U.S. residents are exposed to fluoride in some way. The question is, are they getting enough?

How Does Fluoride Work?

As bacteria builds up on your teeth, it can cause decay and dissolve the enamel. Fluoride inhibits this demineralization and even promotes remineralization of damaged enamel. It can also prevent cavities by affecting the activity of the bacteria – inhibiting its ability to produce acid.

Your mouth has some natural defense against this because your own saliva carries topical fluoride. However, this alone isn’t enough fluoride to really impact that acid production. Drinking fluoridated water and using fluoridated products will raise this concentration, usually for one or two hours, which will be critical in fighting cavities.

When you get enough fluoride, it is taken up directly by dental plaque and demineralized enamel, and will increase the concentration of fluoride in the saliva 100x to 1,000x.

When you get a professional fluoride treatment, though, it leaves a temporary layer of material on your teeth and releases fluoride into your mouth when the pH level gets low enough. (Meaning that acid production has gone up.) This provides a much longer period in which your mouth has enough fluoride.

Where to Get Your Fluoride

Fluoridated water – In the U.S., water can provide approximately 75% of your daily fluoride intake. So if your community does not have fluoridated water, or you only use bottled water, you may want to supplement your intake. Different bottled waters have different concentrations of fluoride so that may be something worth looking at when you choose your favorite brand.

Fluoride toothpaste – Fluoride is the only nonprescription toothpaste additive proven to prevent cavities. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, this is probably the most likely way you’ll get enough fluoride in your life. Bush twice a day (at least) and teach children to use it from an early age – but make sure they don’t swallow it.

Fluoride mouth wash – A fluoridated mouth wash works much like toothpaste, making sure you get enough mixed in with the saliva to help prevent dental caries. You can use it daily or weekly, depending on the instructions.

Professional compounds – Fluoride dental treatments have been around for decades. They come in gels, foams, or rinses, and they all have highly concentrated fluoride that helps reduce decalcification and even slow the progress of existing cavities.

How Much Do You Need?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average adult male needs about 4mg a day, and the adult female needs about 3mg. Studies show that up to 10mg in a day from food and water sources is safe for adults.

What they also point out is that systemic fluoride (the fluoride that you intake through water and food), while helpful, is not as good as topical applications for protecting your teeth. So no matter how much fluoride is in your water, be sure that you are actively brushing and rinsing every day.