Fluoride and protecting your teeth from tooth decay
Fluoride is a natural mineral found in food, plants, air and water. It can help to strengthen teeth against plaque acid attacks which are produced after eating or drinking anything containing sugar.
Drinking fluoridated water and brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste can help to prevent dental health problems. Fluoride can also reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
Fluoride in water
Water fluoridation is when fluoride is added to water supplies that are low in fluoride. It is a cost effective way of preventing tooth decay.
In the past, people who lived in areas without fluoridated water, or who used tank water, were advised to take fluoride supplements in the form of drops and tablets to help prevent tooth decay. However, the use of supplements in children under 6 years is associated with an increased risk of dental fluorosis (white markings or mottling on the adult teeth).
The current Australian guidelines advise that fluoride supplements should not be used and fluoride tablets/drops are no longer available in Western Australia.
If your drinking water is not fluoridated or you use tank water, ask your dental health professional for advice on other options for gaining the benefits of fluoride.
These options may include:
- more frequent use of toothpaste (brush 3 times a day instead of 2)
- introducing toothpaste at a younger age
- introducing adult strength toothpaste at a younger age.
An oral health professional can determine the best option for you.
Bottled and drinking water
If you choose to drink bottled water, check the label for fluoride content.
If you use a water filter, select one that does not remove fluoride. Product manufacturers can advise you on this.
The Australian guidelines for using fluoride toothpaste are:
- No toothpaste should be used for children up to 17 months.
- Use only a ‘pea sized’ amount of low fluoride toothpaste for children 18 months to 5 years.
- Use adult strength toothpaste for children 6 and over.
- Supervise children’s toothbrushing at least until they are 7 or 8.
- Ensure children brush at least twice a day, once in the morning and before bed at night, using a soft toothbrush.
- Encourage children to spit out excess toothpaste, not to swallow and not to rinse after brushing.
Children up to 6 tend to swallow rather than spit out most of the toothpaste that goes into their mouth. Adding water to rinse increases the likelihood of swallowing toothpaste. This is a risk factor for fluorosis, therefore it is important to supervise your child’s toothbrushing techniques.
Maintaining a lovely smile
To achieve and keep healthy teeth and gums:
- eat a healthy diet
- limit sugary foods and drinks
- brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- floss daily
- have regular dental checks.
- Drinking fluoridated water and using fluoride toothpaste can help to strengthen teeth against plaque acid attacks.
- If you do not have access to fluoridated drinking water, speak to your dental health professional about your options.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste daily.
Dental Health Services
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.