The levels of fluoride added to local water supplies are safe and effective for all ages, but consuming excessive amounts can cause small white specks to form on the teeth. Fluoride toothpaste is not recommended for children aged less than 18 months.
Find out more about why fluoride is good for your family's oral health and how to make sure you're getting enough of it.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in the ground, rocks, crops and in most sources of freshwater and saltwater. The low concentration of fluoride in the environment is not sufficient on its own to protect the teeth.
Fluoridation is the process of adding supplemental fluoride to local water supplies at safe, optimum levels to promote dental health. It's also included in most toothpastes, mouthwashes and other dental products at higher concentrations, as these are not intended to be ingested.
How can fluoride help my teeth?
Fluoride can help to strengthen teeth at all ages by remineralising the enamel (the hard, outer surface of teeth). This makes teeth more resistant to acid produced by plaque and can also slow down the spread of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. This helps to protect the teeth against decay and cavities.
Fluoride can also combine with enamel while children's teeth are still developing, making them stronger for life.
The most common sources of fluoride are:
- Toothpaste – fluoride toothpaste is the most effective way to receive fluoride. Young children should use low-fluoride children's toothpaste.
- Tap water – if you live in a fluoridated area, fluoride present in your water supply can help to strengthen your teeth.
- Mouthwash – rinsing your mouth using a fluoride mouthwash can reduce bacteria and reach parts of your mouth that brushing and flossing can't.
- Supplements – if you don't live in a fluoridated area, or your dentist thinks your teeth could benefit from extra fluoride, they may recommend supplements such as gels or tablets.
- Dental treatments – your dentist may apply fluoride to your teeth during your check-up and clean appointment to lower your risk of tooth decay.
As well as regular brushing and flossing, following a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water are important parts of good oral hygiene.
What are the risks of fluoride?
Extensive scientific research has clearly shown that the amount of fluoride in drinking water poses no risk to people’s health. While uncommon, consuming too much fluoride in childhood can sometimes cause fluorosis, a cosmetic condition which results in white specks appearing on the teeth. This is unlikely to happen from drinking fluoridated water, but it can occur if young children use adult-strength toothpaste.
Is fluoride safe in water?
Fluoride levels in water supplies are carefully maintained at safe levels for human consumption. In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends concentrations between 0.6mg and 1.1mg per litre.
Multiple studies conducted over many decades have confirmed that water fluoridation is a safe and cost-effective way of improving oral health and reducing tooth decay in the community. Australians who were born after fluoridation was widely implemented in the 1970s have around half the level of tooth decay compared to the previous generation.
Book a check-up and clean
Has it been over 6 months since your last dental visit? Schedule an appointment at Sailors Bay Dentistry so our dentists can check your teeth, give you a professional clean and apply fluoride to help protect and strengthen your teeth against decay.
 Australian Dental Association (ADA). Fluoride (31-64yrs) - Your Dental Health [Online] 2016 [Accessed May 2018] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Adults-31-64/Fluoride
 Australian Dental Association (ADA). Fluoride [Online] 2017 [Accessed May 2018] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/News-Media/Issues-at-a-Glance/Fluoride
 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Water fluoridation and human health in Australia [Online] 2018 [Accessed May 2018] Available from: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/health-effects-water-fluoridation