There are a handful of ways to keep your teeth healthy and strong. Brushing and flossing daily along with eating healthy foods both help you do so. Fluoride for your teeth plays an important role too.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water, soil, plants, rocks, and air. It is also present in teeth and bones. So is fluoride good for your teeth? Yes! Fluoride is also regularly used in the dental field to strengthen enamel.
Besides oral care, fluoride is used in medical imaging scans, as a cleaning agent, in pesticides, and in making products manufactured from aluminum, steel, and Teflon.
What Does Fluoride Do for Your Teeth
Fluoride for teeth health is probably its most widely recognized use. It improves a patient’s oral care whether it is consumed naturally in foods, added to municipal drinking water supplies, or found in over-the-counter dental products.
Bacteria found in the mouth break down sugar and carbohydrates. This produces acids that weaken tooth enamel. Weakened enamel leaves a tooth susceptible to the decaying process.
Fluoride plays a significant role in cavity prevention. It rebuilds weakened tooth enamel through a process known as remineralization. It also decreases the mineral loss rate from enamel.
Fluoride indirectly helps whiten teeth through the remineralization process. Since fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, teeth stay stronger and whiter. The enamel prevents dentin exposure. Dentin is a darker shade and more susceptible to staining.
Best Products that Contain Fluoride
People who aren’t getting enough fluoride from food or their water supply can supplement with any number of available products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a helpful list.
Best Toothpaste with Fluoride
You already brush your teeth to prevent plaque buildup and tooth decay. Be sure to use fluoride toothpaste to get added protection. There are different toothpaste types for varying tastes and needs that all have fluoride:
- Toothpaste with Teeth-Whitening Hydrogen Peroxide
- Toothpaste for Strengthening Enamel and Sensitive Teeth
- Stannous Fluoride Toothpaste for Gum Health
- Natural Formula Toothpaste that is Vegan and Gluten-Free
- Non-Mint Flavored Toothpaste
Fluoride Mouth Rinse
Fluoride mouth rinse is a concentrated solution designed to be used on a daily or weekly basis. Over-the-counter rinses have 0.05% sodium fluoride and can be used for daily rinsing by anyone over the age of six. Supervised, school-based weekly rinsing programs use a rinse with 0.20% sodium fluoride. Consult your dentist for a stronger concentration.
Fluoride supplements come in many forms including tablets, lozenges, and liquids. Sodium fluoride is the active ingredient in most supplements.
Fluoride Gel and Foam
Gels and foams are highly acidic. They can be used as an in-office fluoride treatment or an at-home treatment. A dentist applies the solution for 1-4 minutes while at-home kits come with instructions and are available by prescription only.
Varnishes come as sodium fluoride or difluorsilane preparations. They are painted directly onto teeth by a dental professional. Varnishes need to be reapplied at regular intervals. At least two applications annually are recommended to be effective.
Best Foods that Contain Fluoride
Some foods are a great natural fluoride source. When those foods are part of a nutritious diet, you receive the health benefits from consuming them along with the fluoride dose. Here is a list of what foods have fluoride so you can add them to your diet:
- Grapes and raisins – Grapes are plentiful with natural fluoride, meaning raising also offer a high fluoride concentration
- Fruit – Besides being healthy, grapes, strawberries, apples, bananas, cherries, watermelon, and peaches are all loaded with fluoride
- Vegetables – Spinach and potatoes are just two veggies high in fluoride
- Seafood – Seafood isn’t just a great source of protein as shrimp and crab legs are two examples of high-fluoride foods
- Coffee and tea – These two drinks provide more than just your morning caffeine kick
Tap Water and Fluoride
Drinking public tap water to which fluoride has been added is safe and effective to prevent tooth decay. Naturally occurring fluoride in tap water is merely adjusted to an optimal level to prevent tooth decay.
Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases. Adding fluoride to tap water is a simple way to decrease tooth decay among children.
Is it Safe to Drink Your Tap Water?
Environmental Working Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that developed a tap water database where you can view your local drinking water analysis results by searching your state.
You can also download their guide to safe drinking water for tips on reducing your exposure to water pollutants.
Check to See if Your City Has Fluoride
For those curious to see if their municipal water supply contains fluoride treatment but who aren’t sure how to find out, the CDC can help.
The CDC’s website offers a My Water's Fluoride (MWF) resource that allows consumers to learn about their drinking water’s fluoride level, the number of people the water system serves, the water supply source, and if the water municipality fluoridates its supply.
Residents of 41 of the 50 states can search for their water supplies. Only Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington state, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia don’t participate in the program.
Risks Associated with Fluoride Use
Like many products, fluoride is safe when used as directed. So is fluoride bad for you? It can be toxic, but the toxicity level depends on the person’s weight. For that reason, parents should keep fluoride-containing products out of the reach of children, especially those ages 6 and under.
Other fluoride side effects include dental fluorosis. This condition occurs when teeth are still forming beneath the gums. White spots form on a tooth’s surface. Dental fluorosis causes no additional symptoms or harm other than white spots.
Fluorosis appears to only affect children under the age of 8 who have permanent teeth coming in. Children are also more apt to swallow toothpaste. That also greatly increases their fluoride intake.
Parents can minimize the dental fluorosis risk in a few ways:
- Watch children brush their teeth to prevent swallowing toothpaste
- Squeeze a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on their child’s toothbrush
- Avoid flavored toothpaste as they encourage children to swallow toothpaste
- Use fluoride-free toothpaste until your children are older
Skeletal fluorosis is like dental fluorosis, however, skeletal fluorosis affects bones instead of teeth. Symptoms to watch for include joint pain and stiffness. Long-term effects include bone structure alteration and calcification of ligaments.
This condition typically develops due to excessive fluoride exposure over a long period of time. That most notably results from drinking water consumption.
Find a Dentist Near Me
Consult your dentist to discuss any questions about the best ways to add fluoride to your daily life or simply the benefits of fluoride. Or, check out The Smile Generation to find a dentist near you for all your oral health needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.
Cafasso, Jacquelyn, What Is Fluoride, and Is It Safe, Healthline, July 3, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-fluoride
Medically Reviewed by Evan Frisbee, DMD, Dental Health and Fluoride Treatment, WebMD, July 29, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/fluoride-treatment
5 Foods that Contain Fluoride, Greenbrier Family Dental, Mar 1, 2022, https://greenbriersmiles.com/5-foods-that-contain-fluoride/
Hamilton, Chelsey, The 5 Best Fluoride Toothpastes, Bustle, February 2, 2022, https://www.bustle.com/life/the-5-best-fluoride-toothpastes-10187917
Other Fluoride Products, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 8, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/basics/fluoride-products.html
5 Easy Ways to Add Fluoride into Your Daily Routine, Hinsdale Dentistry, June 13, 2020, https://www.hinsdaledentistry.com/blog/5-easy-ways-to-add-fluoride-into-your-daily-routine/
My Water's Fluoride, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://nccd.cdc.gov/doh_mwf/default/default.aspx
EWG's Tap Water Database - 2021 Update, Environmental Working Group, https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/