How does Fluoride protect your teeth?
What is fluoride?
- Fluoride in toothpaste strengthens teeth, making them more resistant to attacks from sugar and acid, thereby preventing decay.
- Fluoride can help re-mineralise (heal or reverse) early decay.
- Prevention of decay helps reduce the pain, inconvenience and financial cost of filling or taking out teeth.
Can people be allergic to fluoride?
No. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has reported that the fluoride ion is too small in size to serve as an allergen. Some people can be allergic to flavouring agents in toothpaste such as mint.
Any suspicion of an allergic reaction should be discussed with a medical doctor or allergy specialist. If you’re allergic to any ingredients in toothpaste, speak to your dentist about what extra measures you can take to protect your teeth.
Other factors ̶ fluoride and tooth decay risk
Patients at “high decay risk” may be recommended by their dentists to use a higher strength fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash. A person may be at higher risk of developing decay if:
- undergoing orthodontic treatment (braces)
- their diet is high in sugar or acid
- they have difficulty brushing their teeth
e.g. arthritis of the wrist, or other disability
- they have dry mouth, or low amounts of saliva
- living in an area without fluoridated water.
Fluoride toothpaste is safe
When used as recommended by your dentist, fluoride toothpaste is safe. Like all things in life the amount is important. Home dental products have a low level of fluoride. There has been no evidence to link regular use of fluoride toothpaste to any conditions other than fluorosis.
Children, however, may be prone to swallowing excessive amounts of toothpaste due to its mint or bubblegum flavour. While swallowing a small amount of toothpaste is generally considered safe, ingesting large amounts can cause symptoms such stomach pain, possible intestinal blockage or other problems.
The Australian Dental Association recommends:
- No toothpaste for children aged under 18 months. Use a small soft toothbrush and simply use tap water to wet the brush.
- Use a pea sized amount of low fluoride toothpaste (sometimes labelled junior or children’s) for children aged 18months to six years.
- Use toothpaste under adult supervision until aged eight years.