What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water, plants, rocks, soil, air and most foods.
You can also get fluoride through drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwash or fluoride treatments at the dentist.
How fluoride prevents tooth decay
Fluoride prevents cavities (tooth decay). Fluoride works by making the outer layer of teeth, called tooth enamel, stronger. When the outer layer is strong, teeth are less likely to get cavities.
- Cavities can lead to tooth loss over time.
- Fluoride protects your teeth from childhood right through to the senior years.
- Water fluoridation provides additional protection to fluoridated toothpaste.
A fluoride treatment at the dentist's office protects your teeth from the outside. Water fluoridation protects your teeth from the inside, making them more resistant to cavities.
Can I get too much fluoride?
Dental fluorosis, a condition that changes how teeth look, occurs if children get too much fluoride when their adult teeth are forming.
- It looks like white flecks on teeth.
- Severe forms look like brown stains and/or pitting on the tooth surface.
- Dental fluorosis is usually caused by swallowing toothpaste or other fluoride products, not just from drinking fluoridated water. Watch children brush their teeth to make sure they spit out and do not swallow toothpaste.
- Dental fluorosis is not harmful to health. It is a cosmetic condition.
- It is not a problem for older children or adults.
- Dental fluorosis is very uncommon in Hamilton.
How to keep your teeth healthy
To keep your teeth and your family’s teeth healthy:
- Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums with a wet cloth after feeding and before bed, starting from birth. Do not use toothpaste.
- When teeth begin to appear, clean teeth and gums with a wet cloth or a very soft infant toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste.
- When your child is three years old, use fluoridated toothpaste twice a day to brush their teeth. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste after brushing.
- Children should only get fluoride treatments from a dentist’s office. Talk to your dentist before giving your child fluoride supplements.
- All family members should visit the dentist twice per year, beginning at age one.
- Drink fluoridated water.
- Eat and drink healthy foods and beverages, choosing those with less sugar.
Fluoridated water and your baby
Your baby can drink fluoridated water.
- The best food for babies is breast milk.
- Drinking water in Hamilton is safe to use for preparing baby formula.
- Well water fluoride levels can vary and water should be tested before using it to prepare baby formula. The optimal level of fluoride is 0.6 ppm. Prepare baby formula with other sources of drinking water (e.g., bottled water) if levels of fluoride in the well water are high, especially if it is higher than 1.5 ppm.