Most people will brush their teeth twice per day using their favourite fluoride-containing toothpaste without giving it much of a second thought. But sometimes dentists will be asked by their patients why most toothpaste brands contain fluoride and what exactly is it good for.
Firstly, it can be very reassuring to know that fluoride is actually a natural mineral that is very abundant and can be found in many commonly eaten foods as well as being present as a natural element of our drinking water.
The actual amount of fluoride found in drinking water will vary from region to region even in areas of the UK where water authorities do not add fluoride to the domestic water supply.
Your daily oral hygiene routine is very important because you are helping yourself to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from plaque build-up and acid attack, but did you know that by brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste that you are actually helping to strengthen your tooth enamel?
The fluoride contained in your toothpaste can help to strengthen your enamel to make it more resistant to tooth decay and less prone to cavities developing. Fluoride can also help to neutralise the acid builds up on your teeth caused by bacteria.
Dental studies have shown that children who use fluoride while growing up tend to develop teeth with much shallower grooves, meaning that plaque can be easier to remove and there are fewer risks of plaque build-up in hard to reach tooth surfaces.
Not all areas of the UK have additional fluoride added to the supply, but over 60 years of research on fluoridation have shown that areas where the water has been treated, tooth decay in the local population has reduced by between 40 to 60%.
All drinking water contains fluoride to a certain extent so there is no need to go out of your way to seek it out. By drinking water and brushing your teeth with regular fluoride-containing toothpaste you will be getting plenty of fluorides. You can check with your local water supplier to find out exactly how much fluoride they add to your drinking water if they do add this at all.
You may also live in an area where natural levels of fluoride in your water are high. This will usually provide you with enough to meet your needs. You will also be receiving some naturally sourced fluoride from the foods you eat too, such as fish for example. If you drink tea every day you will be getting a dose of natural fluoride.
After a thorough history and examination, your dentist may decide to give you a special fluoride boosting treatment. This treatment involves applying a sticky fluoride paste directly to the surface of your teeth which will be absorbed directed through the teeth to help strengthen your tooth enamel.
If you have young children up to the age of three your dentist may recommend that they use a specially formulated children’s toothpaste that has a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm(parts per million). This will be increased to a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm after this age.
You will gain the most benefit from the fluoride in toothpaste by avoiding rinsing after brushing your teeth, but just spit out the excess foam. Also, avoid using mouthwash at the same time as brushing as it may wash away the concentrated fluoride from the toothpaste. Instead use it as an alternative time to brushing, for example, after lunch.
Talk to your dentist if you are concerned about your fluoride levels or you would like advice about using the best fluoride toothpaste for you and your family members.
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