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Tooth toughening with fluoride

Advancement in the speciality of Paediatric Dentistry

Cavities are not inevitable. Cavities can be prevented.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element like calcium, phosphorous, or iron, and is as important as calcium in keeping your teeth healthy. Fluoride works by helping the body to repair the early damage caused by plaque acids a long time before any holes become visible. Fluorides are of proven benefit as part of an overall plan to prevent and control tooth decay. Only a tiny quantity of fluoride is needed, and the best way to get this is by drinking and cooking with water which has had the fluoride level correctly adjusted, and by using a fluoride containing toothpaste. Although we usually think of fluoride preventing cavities in children, it also works well in adults too. There is a life long benefit.

Water fluoridation

Throughout Australia there are a number of areas in which the groundwater is naturally fluoridated and other areas where the water supply is deficient in fluoride. Water fluoridation ensures that the water your children drink is optimally fluoridated for health and prevention of tooth decay. Water fluoridation has effectively reduced the rates of tooth decay by over fifty per cent for everyone!

The NHMRC Reaffirmed in 2013 that:

Fluoridation of drinking water remains the most effective and socially equitable means of achieving community-wide exposure to the caries prevention effects of fluoride. It is recommended that water be fluoridated in the target range of 0.6 to 1.1 mg/L, depending on climate, to balance reduction of dental caries and occurrence of dental fluorosis.

Fluoride toothpaste

After water fluoridation, brushing with a fluoride containing toothpaste is the next most effective way of toughening your teeth. It is very important to ensure that your child is supervised while they are brushing their teeth to make sure that they are cleaning them effectively, and also to make sure that they're not just eating the toothpaste.

It's a good idea to keep the children's toothpaste out of reach and for an adult to dispense the required amount of toothpaste just when they're ready to brush their teeth. It also helps to push that little piece of toothpaste down into the toothbrush bristles so that it doesn't fall off on the first tooth that gets brushed. Only a “rice grain sized smear of toothpaste is needed before the age of two, and a “pea sized” piece of toothpaste is needed after age two, so you can make that tube of toothpaste last a long time!

Use a rice grain size smear until age 2, and a pea size blob until age six

Talk to your dentist or oral health professional about your child's individual decay risk profile, and they will advise the best type of toothpaste and talk about how much to use and how often, as well as teaching you some great tricks for helping your kids get the best out of tooth brushing.

Topical fluoride

Sometimes it can be helpful if your dentist or oral health professional paints or coats the teeth with additional fluorides, often targeting very high-risk areas including areas where the early stages of decay can already be detected.