Dental fluoride is a natural occurring mineral present in water and soil at varying levels that helps prevent teeth from tooth decay (dental cavity).
Dental Fluoride Benefits
The benefit of dental fluoride was discovered by scientists during the 1940’s. “Scientists discovered that people who lived where drinking water supplies had naturally occurring fluoride levels of approximately one part fluoride per million parts water or greater had fewer dental caries than people who lived where fluoride levels in drinking water were lower”. Source: National Cancer Institute
- Prevents tooth decay (dental caries/cavity)
- Prevents formation of recurrent caries around margins of existing dental restorations
- Helps reduce demineralization of tooth enamel (outermost surface of tooth) following consumption of food and beverages
Most common sources of dental fluoride
- Municipal water supply
- Pre-packaged food & beverages including bottled water
- Over the counter: toothpaste and mouth rinse
- By prescription: fluoride drops, mouth rinse, brush on gel, and varnish
Dental fluoride & Dental caries risk assessment
While everyone can benefit from the daily application of topical dental fluoride, some populations are at higher risk for dental
Infants immune system and teeth are not fully developed. Intake of essential nutrients and minerals are essential for growth and development. Consumption of fluoridated water helps to strengthen the development of tooth enamel of erupting teeth to resist dental caries.
Children’s daily habits evolve as they grow older. They start off learning only how to brush until they develop fine motor skills to enable them to floss their teeth themselves. Many parents struggle with resistance from their kids to establish good oral home care routines, all while they’re busy with school, sports, and family activities.
Children benefit from (systemic) consumption of fluoridated water till all permanent teeth have developed and erupted and from daily topical application of fluoride to help minimize their risk for tooth decay after consuming food and beverages.
By this age, most teens have shed their last baby teeth and have their adult permanent teeth. Systemic fluoride is no longer necessary or recommended. Instead, daily topical application of dental fluoride is most effective. Teenagers are often busy with school, sports, jobs, and typically consume an increased amount of acidic beverages and foods and may not be meticulous regarding their home oral care routine.
Daily topical application of fluoride helps prevent demineralization of tooth enamel including vulnerable margins of existing dental restorations. Additionally, many adults have areas of receding gums. Receding gums exposes the dentin or root surface of a tooth. Exposed dentin is at high risk for development of dental caries even with a meticulous home oral care routine.
Additionally, many adults take over the counter nutritional/herbal supplements and/or prescription medication. Dry mouth (aka xerostomia) is often one of the top five listed potential side effects on the package insert. People with decreased salivary flow are considered high risk for dental caries.
Types of dental fluoride
There are three predominant types of dental fluoride available.
- Neutral sodium fluoride
- Stannous fluoride
- Acidulated phosphate fluoride
Neutural sodium fluoride
- Most popular. Available over the counter and prescription strength from your dentist
- Over the counter products include toothpaste and mouth rinse
- Prescription products include: paint on varnish, topical gel/foam, take home brush on gel, mouth rinse, or drops
- Available over the counter and prescription strength from your dentist
- Antibacterial. Interferes with formation of dental plaque and can help reverse gingivitis
- Used predominantly for people with dry mouth due to prescription medication, a salivary gland disorder, or are
undergoing radiation treatment
- Prolonged use may cause staining of teeth and dental restorations
Acidulated phosphate fluoride
- Professional use only
- Seldom used now. Neutral sodium fluoride is improved technology and is more effective
How to apply dental fluoride
Dental fluoride is either ingested (systemic) or is topically applied to teeth surfaces.
Fluoride gel or paste
- Brush teeth with a pea size amount of fluoride gel or paste for one minute. Afterwards, spit excess into sink and avoid
eating or drinking including water for 30 minutes. This includes over the counter dental toothpaste.
- Swish pre-measured fluoride rinse (read label for exact dosage) vigorously for 60 seconds. Afterwards, spit excess into sink and avoid eating or drinking including water for 30 minutes. Fluoride rinse is different than mouthwash which kills
bacteria associated with halitosis and/or gingivitis.
- Tooth colored, professionally applied using an applicator brush to outermost surfaces of teeth. Afterwards, your dental provider will instruct you to close your mouth for a few seconds to allow the varnish to set and harden.
- Avoid brushing and flossing teeth for 4-6 hours following varnish application
- Avoid hot beverages, hot liquid meals like soup or chili, and any products containing alcohol for 4-6 hours following
Fluoride drops (systemic)
- A water test is required to determine amount of supplemental fluoride necessary before your dentist or child’s pediatrician can prescribe fluoride drops.
- Use fluoride drops as prescribed by your dentist or child’s pediatrician
- Be sure to check the label on the prescription bottle for exact dosage instructions
How much dental fluoride is effective?
Too little or too much fluoride can be detriment and ineffective. It’s best to discuss individual recommendations with your dentist
or your child’s pediatrician regarding how much supplemental dental fluoride is necessary to prevent tooth decay. A water test is necessary before a systemic fluoride can be prescribed.
Overdosage of systemic dental fluoride can result in dental fluorosis, a condition where the outward appearance of the tooth
appears mottled and/or discolored. This is permanent.
Dental sealants & dental fluoride
Dental fluoride is recommended even if dental sealants have been placed. Dental sealants prevent tooth decay in the deep pits and grooves of permanent back teeth. Dental sealants do not help prevent tooth decay on smooth surfaces.
How much fluoride is in my home’s municipal water?
It’s important to know the level of fluoride in your home’s drinking water. Below is a link to the Centers for Disease Control’s My Water’s Fluoride website. If you live in Anoka county click here. For all other counties in Minnesota, click here. Many counties have multiple water systems with different service areas. You can find the name of your water system on your monthly utility bill.
Water sample testing
If you and or your family predominantly drinks water from any of the sources below, it is highly likely that there is no dental
fluoride present in the water. This is especially important for parents with infants and young children during tooth development.
- Well water
- Bottled water
- Water treated with reverse osmosis
- Water that passes through a faucet filter (Brita and Pur are 2 popular brands)
How to collect a water sample for testing
Click here for step by step instructions for how to collect a water sample to determine how much fluoride is in your water.
Where to send water sample for testing
Anoka county residents can submit their water sample in person Monday-Friday at:
Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services
2100 3rd Ave North Suite 600
Anoka, MN 55303
Phone number is (763) 422-7063 Click here for more information.
If you live outside Anoka county, Google your county Community Health and Environmental Services for more information.
How to read water test results
After your water has been tested, you will receive a written documentation and explanation of your water. A copy of this document
is required before a dentist or your child’s pediatrician can prescribe systemic fluoride.
State of Minnesota Statute and Rules regarding dental fluoride
Minnesota Statute 144.145 requires the fluoridation of water in all municipal water supplies except where natural levels are sufficient.
Minnesota Rule 4720.0030 prescribes the required monitoring of drinking water fluoride concentrations.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health
Dental fluoride controversy
A possible relationship between fluoridated water and cancer risk has been debated for years. Two critical arguments include:
- Fluoride is a neurotoxin and elevates an individual’s risk for cancer
- There is no means to opt out of fluoride in your municipal tap water supply
Exposure to fluoride is a choice. An individual can elect to opt out of fluoride in their municipal tap water by simply installing a water filter or drink bottled water instead.
40+ years of clinical exam findings data shows caries incidence is higher in individuals without exposure to fluoride. This translates to a lifetime of preventable and costly dental restorations and unpaid time away from work and
disruption of family time and activities..
“More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults”. Source: American Dental Association
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, concurs with the research and states that “community water fluoridation is one of the most cost effective, equitable, and safe measures communities can take to prevent
tooth decay and improve oral health”.
The email us your question.