#1 Key to Preventing Tooth Decay: Fluoride
Fluoride is a natural mineral that can strengthen teeth to help prevent tooth decay and permanent tooth loss. More importantly, it helps restore the minerals that have been worn down and repair weak spots in the enamel. Do you know that:
- 85% of all adults experience tooth decay
- More than 60% of will loss permanent tooth due to cavities
- The majority of bottled water do not contain optimal levels of fluoride. And, some types of home water treatment systems can reduce the fluoride levels in water supplies
How Can We Obtain Fluoride?
Frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride each day is the best way to reduce the risk for developing tooth decay. Drinking water is the most common vehicle for fluoride intake. In non-fluoridated drinking water (i.e. drinking-water to which fluoride has not been intentionally added for the prevention of dental caries), the fluoride level can be dangerously high. The concentration of fluoride in fluoridated drinking-water (i.e., fluoride is intentionally added for the prevention of dental caries) generally ranges from 0.7-1.2mg/litre. We can also obtain trace amounts of fluoride in foods, e.g. fish, tea leaves and breast milk.
Topical fluoride is the next best alternative, which can be given in two forms: fluoridated toothpaste or topical fluoride given by a dental professional. Unless a dentist or other qualified health professional advises otherwise, fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced after age of 2.5. Excessive fluoride can cause yellowing of teeth, white spots, and pitting or motting of enamel, known as dental fluorosis.
How to get fluoride for your child’s teeth?
You need not use a toothpaste until your child is 2.5 years old. From age 2.5 to 8 years old, place a pea-sized drop of children’s fluoridated toothpaste on the toothbrush. Toothpaste should be dispensed in a pea-sized amount. Children should spit out the toothpaste after brushing but should not rinse with water. The small amount of fluoridated toothpaste that remains in the mouth helps prevent tooth decay.
Professionally applied fluoride (via varnishes, gels, foams) renews the high levels of fluoride in superficial enamel. Topical fluoride may be especially effective for those children at high risk for dental caries because they lack fluoridated water, have a history of caries, snack frequently on foods high in sugar, or have a medical problem that decreases caries resistance. These treatments also enhance reminiralization of early various lesions. Topical fluoride treatments should be applied only by a dentist or a qualified health professional.
Studies have indicated that in more than 90% of urban Chinese cities, including Shanghai, fluorine concentrations in drinking water are below levels recommended by the WHO (approximately 0.5-1.0 mg/1). This includes the bottled drinking water supplies to your home or office water dispensers. To ensure a healthy intake of fluoride, use fluoridated toothpaste, which are widely available in supermakets, and supplement your pearly whites with topical fluoride during your twice a year visit to the dentist.