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How Safe Is Fluoride in Toothpaste?

The CDC recognizes fluoride in toothpaste as one of the most outstanding public health achievements of the century. Fluoride strengthens teeth, prevents cavities, and remineralizes tooth enamel in the early stages of tooth decay.

Key takeaways:

Anti-cavity agents in toothpaste include sodium monofluorophosphate, sodium fluoride, and stannous fluoride — and have a proven legacy of oral health benefits. Read on to learn how fluoride in toothpaste can help teeth and overall oral health.

How fluoride prevents cavities

Plaque, a sticky coating of germs, continually covers teeth. When a person consumes sugary meals or drinks, the bacteria in plaque produce acid, which attacks the hard outer enamel of the tooth, eventually destroying it. Holes, called cavities, start appearing across the affected areas.

There are a few ways fluoride helps in preventing cavities:

  1. Fluoride strengthens dental enamel by assisting in the rebuilding of acid-attacked enamel, reversing the indications of early tooth decay. Fluoride protects teeth against further decay by encouraging the formation of fluorapatite, a dental enamel highly resistant to acids and bacteria.
  2. Fluoride has antibacterial qualities that limit bacterial development and prevent germs from adhering to teeth.
  3. Fluoride cannot repair cavities that have already formed, but it can prevent new cavities from forming by slowing the rate at which they develop. Most dentists recommend a twice-daily brushing routine with fluoridated toothpaste to provide a regular supply of topical fluoride to teeth.

Why add fluoride to toothpaste?

Fluoride in toothpaste comes in direct contact with teeth when brushing. This helps to apply fluoride to the enamel evenly.

Research shows that brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste is critical in preventing early childhood cavities. Similarly, in adults, fluoridated toothpaste has been linked to a drastic fall in cavities incidence over the years.

How to choose your toothpaste?

Choosing the right toothpaste is easy — dentists advise looking for the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

A toothpaste with an ADA seal must contain fluoride — in recommended levels — and has been tested to be effective in cavity prevention. Acknowledging the role of topical fluoride in oral health, ADA has strategically provided this seal only to fluoride-containing toothpaste. In addition, the World Health Organization's recent decision to include fluoride toothpaste on its list of essential medications underscores the benefits of toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Fluoride toothpaste must fulfill the standards of the American Dental Association's Council on Scientific Affairs for safety and efficacy in decreasing tooth decay. The ADA test parameters include the amount of accessible fluoride, the amount of fluoride released in one minute, and the fluoride absorption rates in normal and compromised tooth enamel.

When choosing a toothpaste, ensure it has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Correct brushing technique is equally important to maximize oral health benefits.

Can children use fluoridated pastes?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends fluoride toothpaste when a baby's first tooth appears under proper parental supervision. The ADA and AAP advocate using children's toothpaste with 1,000 ppm, busting the myth that children cannot use fluoride toothpaste.

Dentists recommend a specific amount of toothpaste for children under 3. A smear or rice grain size is advised for kids under three. Once the kid reaches the age of three and can spit, a pea-sized quantity of toothpaste should be used.

It's best to consult a pediatric dentist to ensure your child needs fluoridated toothpaste. He will walk you through the rituals smoothly.

Why do dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste?

Dentists recognize that one of the most effective strategies for preventing tooth decay is brushing your teeth properly using fluoride toothpaste. Most dentists advise using fluoridated toothpaste — depending on a person's oral and dental health. The trick is to use fluoridated toothpaste correctly — which depends on factors like how much fluoride you consume every day (from drinking water and foods) and whether you are at high risk of cavities.

Optimal levels of fluoride in toothpaste

The fluoride amount is calculated in parts per million — ppm. Experts recommend that toothpaste must contain at least 1,000 ppm. Fluoridated toothpaste having 1,350-1,450 ppm of fluoride is considered optimum for oral health.

Additionally, high-fluoride toothpaste with 5,000 ppm of sodium fluoride can be used in high-risk individuals with substantial tooth damage or medical problems that put them at risk of frequent cavities, including orthodontic devices, braces, partial dentures, or dry mouth (caused by disease, medications, or cancer therapy).

Disadvantages of fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride is often said to be a double-edged sword. When used as recommended, it provides maximum oral health benefits and minimal health problems. However, if ingested or if used in ways other than recommended, fluoride can be dangerous.

Long-term consumption of high amounts of fluorides can cause dental or skeletal fluorosis — characterized by weakening bones. Other gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have also been linked to rising blood fluoride levels. Dental fluorosis is a disorder that causes the color of tooth enamel to alter. This discoloration generally appears as white or brown blotches.

Fluoride toothpaste is recommended for protecting teeth and fighting plaque. It's readily available and usually safe, as long as it's not swallowed. Parents should monitor their children's toothpaste use to ensure they do not ingest it. When selecting fluoride toothpaste, look for the amount of fluoride in it and the ADA stamp of approval. A dentist is the best person to guide you on fluoride requirements, depending on your oral health status.

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