Fluoride (said like floor-eyed) is a mineral that occurs naturally in soil, water, and air that has been shown to prevent cavities, or tooth decay. For the past several decades, fluoride has been added to community water supplies and oral care products such as toothpaste and mouth rinse. Fluoride works by strengthening the tooth’s hard outer surface called enamel.
You can get fluoride by drinking tap water in communities where the public water system adds fluoride and by using fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse, as well as from certain foods and beverages. In the dental office, a dentist can apply fluoride varnish or gel, and in some public health programs, children can have fluoride varnish applied to their teeth.
Fluoride can prevent tooth decay across the lifespan; both children and adults benefit from it.
- Find the amount of fluoride in your community’s water by checking with your local water utility. Although some bottled waters have the recommended amount of fluoride, many do not. If you have well water, it will need to be tested for fluoride concentration. Your dentist or local health department may be able to assist you.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, floss regularly, and see a dentist for routine check-ups.
- Ask your child’s dentist or doctor about fluoride toothpaste use. You should not use fluoride toothpaste for children younger than age 2 unless you have been advised to do so by a dentist or doctor.