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Advice/What is fluoride?

What is fluoride?

1. What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water (freshwater and saltwater) and various foods.

2. How does fluoride help prevent cavities?

Fluoride has a favorable effect on oral health by making teeth more resistant to cavities. Fluoride can also help prevent cavities, or even eliminate those that have appeared.

3. Where does fluoride come from that helps prevent cavities?

For many Canadians, fluoride is found in public drinking water, providing protection to all members of the community. Fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes are available on the market, and your dentist can provide fluoride products such as gels and varnishes.

4. What is dental fluorosis?

Dental fluorosis changes the appearance of teeth and is caused when higher than optimal amounts of fluoride are ingested during infancy. In its lightest and most frequent form, fluorosis alters the appearance of children's teeth on which small white spots can be seen.

5. Is dental fluorosis a concern in Canada?

According to the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, dental fluorosis is not a concern for the vast majority of children (84%). Some children (16%) have forms of mild fluorosis that often neither children nor parents notice.

6. What is water fluoridation?

Water fluoridation is a process by which the level of fluoride in public drinking water is adjusted to optimize the dental benefits associated with caries prevention.

7. Why is fluoride added to public drinking water if it is otherwise available?

Fluoride is added to public drinking water to protect everyone in the community from tooth decay. Fluoridation of community waters is a safe and effective way to prevent cavities at low cost.

8. Who monitors fluoride levels in drinking water?

The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water makes recommendations regarding the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water to prevent cavities. The recommended rate takes into account the fact that Canadians obtain fluoride from other sources such as food and drink.

9. By “optimal” rate of water fluoridation, what do we mean?

An optimal rate of fluoridation of drinking water is achieved by adjusting the rate of fluoride it contains so as to obtain a fair balance between the benefits associated with caries prevention and the risks of dental fluorosis.

10. Does fluoridation of water pose health risks?

With the exception of dental fluorosis, scientific studies have found no credible link between fluoridation of water and harmful health effects.

11. Should I use fluoridated toothpaste for my child?

In children from zero to three years of age, the use of fluoride toothpaste will be determined based on the level of risk. To this end, parents should consult a health care professional to determine if the child under the age of three is at risk for tooth decay. If such a risk exists, the child's teeth should be brushed by an adult using a very small amount of fluoridated toothpaste (amount corresponding to the size of a grain of rice). Using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste has been shown to balance the benefits of fluoride with the risk of fluorosis. If the child is not considered to be at risk, the teeth should be brushed by an adult, only with a toothbrush and water.

Children three to six years of age should only use a small amount (portion the size of a green pea) of fluoride toothpaste. Children in this age group should brush their teeth with the help of an adult.

12. Why should I supervise or help my child to brush his teeth?

Young children tend to swallow toothpaste while brushing their teeth, which can increase their exposure to fluoride and contribute to the development of dental fluorosis. That is why they should be helped or supervised for brushing teeth. The adult should ensure that an appropriate amount of toothpaste is used, that the child spits the toothpaste instead of swallowing it, and that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned.

13. How do I know if my child is well protected with fluoride?

Your dentist can assess your child's risk of developing cavities and advise you on the appropriate level of fluoride to protect them.