Our patients often wonder about the role fluoride plays in keeping both childrens’ and adults’ teeth healthy. They question whether it is really necessary, or whether trying one of the many non-fluoridated toothpastes now available , often marketed as “natural,” is an option. We hope this overview of the importance of fluoride for both adults and children is helpful!
Fluoridated Toothpaste for Adults
While all toothpaste helps to remove plaque present on the tooth’s surface, fluoridated toothpaste goes one step further by strengthening and protecting tooth enamel. It achieves this by both slowing down the breakdown of enamel and helping to remineralize enamel, making it harder and more resistant to damage. Stronger enamel prevents bacteria from infiltrating the tooth and causing decay.
While natural toothpastes–i.e., fluoride-free toothpastes–are effective for removing plaque, they simply do not have the same capacity to prevent tooth decay because they do not contribute to remineralization in any way. For this reason, fluoridated toothpaste is a must for adults.
Fluoridated toothpaste is very effective. Contrary to what many people believe, adults do not need to use anywhere near enough toothpaste to cover the entire head of a toothbrush. In fact, as Dr. David Okana notes in
this interview with the University of Utah Health Services department, “I’m sure the toothpaste companies love you for using that full 1 inch of toothpaste on the toothbrush. But, in reality, a pea-sized amount would be the amount necessary.”
Fluoridated Toothpaste for Children
Parents are often uncomfortable with the idea of using fluoridated toothpaste for their children; this is an understandable fear, as there is such a thing as too much fluoride. Fluorosis, a condition that causes light streaks or spots on the teeth, can result if a child is exposed to too much fluoride. But by following the American Dental Association’s recommendations carefully, you can ensure that your child receives just the right amount of fluoride to keep his or her teeth strong. The ADA explains: “For children younger than 3 years, parents and caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children 3 to 6 years of age, parents and caregivers should dispense no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.” They go on to recommend twice-daily brushing for all children, with close adult supervision and assistance, of course.