The impact of fluoride on dental health

The use of fluoride prevents tooth decay but fluoride is also a complex element that should be used sparingly.

Most people of a certain generation have already received a fluoride treatment at the dentist’s office when they were young. Placed in a mouth tray, it was inserted in the mouth and bitten for a few moments. You then had to spit the product. The principle is still used and it is for a good cause!

Why fluoride?

The use of fluoride prevents tooth decay. It is an excellent ally during periodic visits to the dentist as it is applied on freshly cleaned teeth that are receptive to the product. Several national and international health professionals’ organizations – including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Canadian Dental Association - agree that its use prevents cavities because it protects tooth enamel from acids that cause decay through a cariostatic effect. Fluoride is also found in water when added by cities and municipalities. Moreover, as several studies have made shown, drinking fluoridated water significantly reduces tooth decay in children. It is another excellent reason to motivate your children to drink water. 

Dentists still use it

The fluoride used at the dentist’s office has evolved a lot. Its texture is nicer (some companies like Oral-B make fluoride foam) and the taste has improved. Children enjoy fluoride because of its various flavors such as strawberry, orange and the classic bubble gum flavor. The same mouth tray is used. If your child is nauseated when the mouth trays are used, the dental hygienist will apply it with a swab instead.


A majority of toothpastes also contain fluoride. For adults, this is not a problem but for children, it is different. Children who are aged less than six years old, those who are most likely to swallow their toothpaste when they brush their teeth and whose teeth are in development, can develop fluorosis. Fluorosis is a kind of fluoride overdose but don’t worry, it will not happen to your child by drinking tap water! It really takes an excessive intake to cause fluorosis.

The consequences of fluorosis are pain, chewing difficulties and discoloration of teeth that can appear like brown or white stains. Health Canada has established a labeling code for products containing fluoride and clear instructions for use because children usually swallow these products.

Here are some tips and advices to make sure that your child’s fluoride intake is optimal without being excessive:

  • Inquire and find out if your tap water is fluoridated.
  • Simply use a toothbrush to clean the teeth of your child aged less than two years old. Because they do not have the reflex to spit, they could swallow big amounts of toothpaste. Using fluoride toothpaste is recommended when a child can spit, which is acquired around two years old.
  • The amount of toothpaste used in young children should not exceed the size of a grain of rice. If your city’s water in not fluoridated and if your child is older than four years old, it could be wise to let him swallow a bit of toothpaste now and again. It will give him a slight intake of fluoride that may be beneficial.
Fluoride supplements

Fluoride supplements come in tablets and drops. However, there are advantages and disadvantages. Supplements can be useful if the city’s water is not fluoridated as it guarantees a minimum fluoride intake. However, it is possible that parents forget to give doses, reducing efficiency. It is also possible to take too much when combined with another source, which is not better. It is best to let a professional advise you on the necessity of supplements. 

Whitening advice

Tooth whitening products found on the market can make your teeth sensitive to cold. Before applying the product in the mouth tray, you can fill the trays with neutral fluoride (ask your dentist). Keep it in your mouth for fifteen minutes, spit the excess without rinsing and then apply the whitening product. It considerably reduces sensibility and makes your whitening experience more enjoyable.

Fluoride is a complex element and it should be used sparingly. If you have doubts about its use, consult your dentist. He will gladly advise you!

Julie Mainella
Dental Assistant

Julie Mainella is passionate about all aspects of dentistry. Mom of two adorable girls, she made them understand the importance of dental health at an early age. She has worked with children in a dental practice and has a wealth of tips and tricks to make children like brushing their teeth and enjoy their visits to the dentist!

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