What is Fluoride Toothpaste? – Its Benefits and Functions

fluoride toothpaste

Oral hygiene is essential to maintain harmony between the teeth, gums, and surrounding oral tissues. Tooth decay has become the most prevalent dental problem worldwide. Typically tooth decay is caused by inadequate oral hygiene or in simpler terms excessive plaque and bacterial growth on the tooth surface. One of the most common ways to clean your teeth daily is tooth brushing.

Toothpaste is a crucial element when it comes to brushing your teeth. There are several types of toothpaste available in the market today. But have you ever thought which toothpaste is the best for strengthening your teeth? Fluoride toothpaste has clinically proven effective against tooth decay and cavity formation. Moreover, fluoride toothpaste strengthens the enamel and increases the longevity of natural teeth in the mouth.

Most people are skeptical about the risks associated with fluoride toothpaste. They prefer to use fluoride-free toothpaste or other oral health care products. Additionally, new parents are usually unaware of the use of fluoride toothpaste for children. Today’s article will highlight some of the critical elements that prove fluoride toothpaste is beneficial for good oral health. We will also look at the working mechanism of fluoride, types of fluoride toothpaste, and some risks associated with fluoride.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is one of the most naturally occurring minerals that is usually found in water sources like rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Fluoride is an excellent natural ingredient that has proven to be beneficial for oral health and hygiene. This is because fluoride has anti-carious properties which naturally fights tooth decay. (1)

Most commonly, fluoride is used as an additive to public water supply in the United States. This process is called water fluoridation. Other oral healthcare products that include fluoride as a key ingredient are fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, or mouth rinse.

Many clinical studies have revealed that water fluoridation contributes to around 25% reduction in tooth decay and cavity formation among the children and adults. This percentage significantly increases when topical fluoride products such as fluoride toothpaste are used regularly. Moreover, fluoride toothpaste has also proven to reduce gingivitis – a form of gum disease on regular usage.

What is a fluoride toothpaste?

Fluoride toothpaste is well known for providing extra protection to the tooth enamel while effectively cleaning the teeth and gums. Usually, sodium fluoride is commonly used in fluoride toothpaste. However, other forms of fluoride that can also be added to the toothpaste include stannous fluoride, olaflur, and sodium monofluorophosphate. (2)

Stannous fluoride is a supreme form of fluoride that effectively reduces the incidence of tooth decay and also prevents gum disease. However, it can cause extensive tooth staining and provides a metallic taste in the mouth. This is the reason sodium fluoride is most commonly used as a critical fluoride ingredient in the toothpaste.

Typically, a fluoride toothpaste for children under three years of age has a concentration level of 1000ppm. Children above three years of age, including adults, should use a fluoride toothpaste in which the fluoride concentration level ranges from 1350 – 1500 ppm.

It is usually advised to supervise children under seven years of age while brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste. This is to eliminate the chances of fluoride ingestion by accidental swallowing. If a child accidentally swallows a significant amount of fluoride toothpaste, monitor the signs and symptoms. Meanwhile, contact your dentist immediately to take appropriate measures.

What is the importance of fluoride toothpaste?

Fluoride toothpaste is recognized worldwide for their property to control the rate of tooth decay and cavity formation. A survey study in the industrialized countries revealed that the use of regular fluoride toothpaste led to a significant decline in the incidence of dental caries and gum disease over the past 30 years. Other benefits of fluoride toothpaste include –

  • Protects the tooth enamel
  • Remineralizes the tooth structure (3)
  • Safe and effective as compared to other oral health care products
  • Economical
  • Natural ingredient

While selecting a fluoride toothpaste, it is essential to look at the optimal levels of the fluoride that may suit you or your children. This step is crucial to eliminate the unnecessary risk of excess fluoride intake, which can have a damaging effect on the overall health and well-being.

How does fluoride toothpaste prevent tooth decay and cavity formation?

Our teeth regularly get covered by a thin, sticky biofilm which consists of food debris and bacteria. This layer is often referred to as dental plaque. One of the most aggravating factors for excessive plaque and bacterial growth in the mouth is food rich in sugar and carbohydrate.

Oral Bacteria thrive on these food substances and ferments them to form harmful acids that erode the enamel layer. As this process continuous, the teeth become prone to tooth decay and lose their tooth structure to develop dental cavities.

Regular use of fluoride toothpaste acts as a topical agent which directly contacts the tooth surface and allows fluoride absorption into the enamel. Usually, fluoride reacts with the hydroxyapatite crystals of the enamel and forms a uniform layer of fluorapatite. This protective layer is acid-resistant, which reduces the effect of bacterial acids on the tooth surface. Hence, the incidence of tooth decay and cavity formation reduces. (4)

Another beneficial value of using fluoride in the form of toothpaste is that it removes the plaque and bacteria biofilm from the surface of the tooth. This increases the fluoride uptake into the tooth enamel. Healthy teeth maintain harmony with the surrounding gums. This is the reason why fluoride toothpaste also shows a reduction in gum inflammation and infections.

What are the types of fluoride toothpaste?

Typically, fluoride toothpaste is divided into two types depending on the age of the individual. The difference between the two kinds of fluoride toothpaste is listed below –

  • Fluoride toothpaste for children – usually, children under two or three years of age have a higher risk of ingesting fluoride by swallowing the toothpaste. This is the reason why fluoride toothpaste for children is specially formulated with a low concentration of fluoride.

The optimum level of fluoride in children’s toothpaste is considered to be up to 1000ppm. Fluoride level above the optimum range can increase the risk of fluorosis in young children. This leads to the formation of yellow or brownish discoloration on the developing permanent teeth. (5)

Many pediatric fluoride toothpastes contain fluoride levels as low as 600 ppm, which is ideal for children under the age of three years. Fluoride concentrations less than 250 ppm are not effective in preventing tooth decay and cavity formation.

  • Fluoride toothpaste for adults – fluoride toothpaste is quite popular among the adult population. Around 95% of the total sales in toothpaste is credited to fluoride toothpaste worldwide. Typically, fluoride toothpaste for adults has a higher concentration of fluoride as compared to the pediatric fluoride toothpaste. (6)

The fluoride level in adult toothpaste range between 1350 – 1500 ppm. This level is effective in combating the oral health condition of the teeth in adults. Some people with hypo-mineralization of enamel may require more fluoride. Therefore, special fluoride toothpaste for therapeutic purposes is available on a prescription basis. The therapeutic fluoride toothpaste can have fluoride levels as high as 2800 ppm.

Is fluoride toothpaste safe for oral health?

Scientifically, fluoride used in fluoridated toothpaste adds a beneficial value to the oral health of the teeth and gums over a long time. It helps to reduce tooth decay, cavity formation, and gingival inflammation. Moreover, fluoride found in fluoridated toothpaste has shown no signs of overall health hazard.

Some studies have revealed that excessive fluoride uptake from additional sources can potentially damage the developing teeth in young children. Moreover, accidental swallowing of fluoride can have systemic side-effects.

It is always best to choose a fluoride toothpaste that has an American Dental Association seal of approval (ADA seal of approval). This ensures the safety and efficacy of the toothpaste as ADA approves these products after several clinical tests and evaluations.

What are the risks associated with fluoride?

It is essential to note that fluoride toothpaste poses a threat only when they are ingested or swallowed. Care should be taken, especially for kids under the age of eight years not to swallow fluoride toothpaste while brushing the teeth.

Failure to do so can cause a severe effect on the developing permanent teeth. This risk associated with excess fluoride exposure is termed as dental fluorosis.

  • The formation of tiny white specks typically characterizes dental fluorosis in the mild form to severe thick white or brown bands of discolorations on the tooth surface of permanent teeth.

Although the teeth affected by dental fluorosis are protected against tooth decay and cavity formation. However, tooth discoloration cannot be corrected naturally. The patient may require cosmetic dental intervention to cover the tooth discoloration. (7)

  • Fluoride poisoning is another risk associated with excess ingestion or accidental swallowing of fluoride, especially in young children. The typical signs of fluoride poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, drooling of saliva, and frequent muscle spasms or seizures.

Such cases should be immediately reported to medical services. In severe cases, medical professionals advise gastric lavage to remove the ingested fluoride from the body system.

It is always essential to monitor the total dietary uptake of fluoride. People who drink fluoridated water regularly should consult their dentist to get recommended levels of fluoridated toothpaste. Use of added fluoride can often contribute to adverse health problems. Some of the common health problems associated with excessive consumption of fluoride include –

  • Skin acne problems
  • Skeletal fluorosis which can make the bones stiff and brittle
  • Reproductive issues in females
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Increased risk of bone cancer and temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Neurological disorders in children

How to use fluoride toothpaste?

A dentist can assist you in providing explicit instruction on using fluoride toothpaste. However, the usual method of using fluoride toothpaste is given below –

  • The amount of fluoride toothpaste depends on the age of an individual. Typically, children between the ages three and six years are advised to use a pea-sized quantity of the toothpaste. Kids under three years of age are recommended to use an amount equal to a grain of rice.
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least two times in a day to take advantage of the fluoride benefits. Tooth brushing should last for a whole two minutes to get full benefits of the fluoride toothpaste.
  • Children above six years of age and adults can also use fluoride mouth rinse as an adjunct with the fluoride toothpaste. This brings additional protection to the tooth enamel. (8)
  • Whenever you use fluoride mouthwash, do not rinse your mouth with water. Let the fluoride settle on the tooth surface.

Although the primary step towards maintaining healthy teeth hand gums is tooth brushing, it is always essential to keep a check on your dietary habits. Avoid food rich in sugars and carbohydrate. Moreover, avoid consumption of acidic drinks. Consult your dentist or a dental hygienist to follow up with your regular tooth cleaning.

Take away message

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that brings a lot of benefits to oral health. One of the prime advantages of fluoride in remineralization of the tooth enamel. Moreover, it makes the tooth acid-resistant, which reduces the incidence of tooth decay. There are several ways of obtaining daily fluoride intake. The best way is to use topical products such as fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste usually comes in the form of a gel or toothpaste with an optimum level of fluoride.

Although there are some risks associated with fluoride toothpaste, they occur due to excess intake of fluoride. Fluoride toothpaste can be used daily to clean the teeth and strengthen the tooth enamel. Generally, adult fluoride toothpaste contains fluoride levels between 1350 – 1500 ppm. While this concentration is much lower in fluoride toothpaste formulated for children, this is because children are prone to swallowing fluoride toothpaste.

You can consult your dentist to understand more about fluoride toothpaste. Moreover, the dentist can recommend some of the popular fluoride toothpaste for daily use.