Fluoride is a natural mineral that prevents and even reverses early tooth decay by making the teeth stronger and more resistant to acid attacks.
There are many ways to get fluoride:
- Fluoride Varnish (from a medical doctor, dentist, dental hygienist or nurse)
- Fluoride Toothpaste (at home)
- Fluoridated Water
- Fluoride Supplements (prescription for use at home)
- Fluoride varnish is a form of fluoride that is applied to the surface of the tooth, much like polish is applied to fingernails.
- Fluoride varnish is safe and effective. Recent studies have shown that there are no adverse events with fluoride varnish applications. Since it is topical, the amount of fluoride absorbed is minimal, it is equal to brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
- Fluoride varnish stays in contact with teeth and helps to prevent them from tooth decay. It can even reverse early tooth decay!
- Fluoride varnish is something that your child should have applied 2-4 times a year but at least four times before age four. Ask your child’s medical doctor, dentist, dental hygienist or nurse to apply fluoride varnish to protect your child’s teeth.
- Fluoride varnish does not replace brushing, you should still brush your child’s teeth twice per day and keep regular dental checkups
Using toothpaste that contains fluoride twice a day is an important way to prevent tooth decay. The amount of fluoride toothpaste to be used depends on the age of your child:
- For children under age 3 years: use a smear of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice)
- For children ages 3-6 years: use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste
- A medical doctor or dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements for your child.
- Fluoride supplements come as tablets, drops or vitamins and need to be taken once per day. They help the body fight tooth decay from both inside and outside of the tooth.
- Fluoride supplements are only for children whose water supply lacks fluoride.
Your child may need supplements if:
- You have well water (that has been tested and does not have enough fluoride in it naturally)
- Your community does not fluoridate the water supply
- Almost all water has some fluoride in it naturally, but usually the levels are too low. Many communities adjust the fluoride levels of their water to prevent tooth decay. If you have public water, click here to find out if your water is fluoridated: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont.
- If your home has a well, you can have the water tested to find out if your child is getting enough fluoride to help prevent cavities. Click here to find out how to test your well water: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island.