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Watch Now: What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a common naturally occurring element. It is present in all natural water supplies to some extent.  Appropriate use of fluoride in dentistry makes this element a potent weapon in the fight against tooth decay.

The debate over the safety of fluoride added to our drinking water seems to have been raging forever. I certainly do not intend to start a war with anti-fluoridationists through this column!

In this column I intend to tell you of my personal experience and my personal opinions, of fluoride as an experienced dental practitioner.

Although there are currently no artificially added fluoride in our municipal water supply in the Far North. Fluoride can still be applied to our teeth in many ways, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of reduced tooth decay and improved oral health.  The most common way we can apply fluoride to our teeth is through fluoridated toothpaste.

When combined with a sensible diet and good oral hygiene, using fluoride toothpaste 2-3 times a day dramatically reduces our risk of tooth decay. To the point where most of us can realistically expect to keep our natural teeth for our entire lives.  This is in stark contrast to our grandparents, who did not have access to the oral hygiene products or education that we take for granted today.

However, supplemental fluoride can also come in the form of tablets, drops and gels from the pharmacy.  When used correctly, these products can provide additional protection against decay.

As a dental professional, I routinely apply fluoride to children’s teeth to provide extra protection against decay, or even to halt active tooth decay.  Dental professionals are well placed to advise you if you or your child would benefit from the additional protection given by these products.

There are two really important things parents can do to prevent your child from developing tooth decay.

First, this starts with the parents keeping good oral hygiene for themselves!  This is because the bugs that cause decay live in our mouths, and can be passed on to babies via saliva, through kissing and sharing cutlery.  As fluoride kills the bugs that cause tooth decay, it is important that parent maintain good oral hygiene, and use fluoride toothpaste 2-3 times per day.

Secondly, by keeping good oral hygiene and limiting your own sugar intake, you are setting an ideal example to your child, who is much more likely to grow up adopting your good habits.

Children should start using a children’s fluoride toothpaste from the moment the first tooth appears, many parents, including myself, give babies a soft toothbrush, lightly coated in children’s fluoride toothpaste, to chew on before the first tooth appears.  This way, your baby is already quite familiar with the toothbrush and the taste when the time comes to use it correctly.

Remember though, to take your child to see a dental professional from the moment their first teeth appear.  This way, they can build up many positive and happy experiences at the dentist, and the family can learn good oral hygiene practices, and receive fluoride supplementation appropriate to them.