Ask a Dentist

July 16, 2021

Q: What Is Fluoride?

Toothbrush with toothpaste on top

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in soil, water (both fresh and salt) and various foods, but why do we use it to clean our teeth? Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to decay. It can also prevent or reverse tooth decay that has started.

Benefits Of Fluoride

Tooth decay is a common yet harmful disease in Canada. Since the 1940s, Canadians have used fluoride to prevent cavities. Fluoride reduces tooth decay by:

  • Concentrating on the growing bones and developing teeth of children, helping to harden the enamel on baby and adult teeth before they emerge from the gums
  • Hardening the enamel on adult teeth after they’ve emerged
  • Lowering the amount of acid in your mouth

Sources Of Fluoride

  • Toothpaste - Brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay. Check out this Ask A Dentist blog for information on children’s toothpaste; primary teeth are more sensitive and require special toothpaste, which is usually not fluoridated.
  • Mouthwash - Fluoride mouthwashes are available over the counter and can be used twice a day. Fluoride mouthwash also prevents tooth decay in people who are at risk for the disease.
  • Water - Fluoride is added to public drinking water to protect community members from tooth decay. The Canadian Dental Association states that water fluoridation is a safe and effective way of preventing tooth decay at a low cost.
  • Food - Only trace amounts of fluoride are naturally present in most foods and beverages such as tea, coffee, raisins, oatmeal, rice, yogurt and more. Brewed tea typically contains higher fluoride levels compared to most foods because tea plants take up fluoride from the soil.
  • Varnish, gel and foams - A dentist or hygienist will either paint your teeth with fluoride varnish, or use gel or foam in a tray that is then placed in your mouth for a minute during a fluoride treatment
  • Supplements - Most of these products are multivitamin/multimineral supplements, multivitamins plus fluoride, or supplements containing trace minerals only. Some fluoride supplements, especially those intended for children, are in the form of drops.

There’s even fluoride in our Winnipeg water. We, and other dental and health organizations including Health Canada, Manitoba Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, fully support having our water fluoridated. Learn more about our fluoridated water in this Ask A Dentist blog

If you drink mostly bottled water, you should talk to your dentist about whether you need additional fluoride treatments— especially if you have children. Your dentist may recommend fluoride drops or tablets if they feel your child is not receiving adequate fluoride levels.

Book your next checkup and cleaning today at either one of our Dental Image Therapy Centres clinics located at St. Vital Centre and Garden City Shopping Centre to determine your risk of tooth decay and if you can benefit from more fluoride. It’s always important to come in for a thorough cleaning with your dental hygienist and a checkup with your dentist. Our dentist and dental hygienists will prescribe fluoride products and talk with you about good oral health habits to reduce your chance of new decay.

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Maybe it's time for your and your family's regular checkup and cleaning, you have a toothache or you need to get your treatment plan going - whatever the reason, we're here to help you get your confident smile. Whether you're a new patient or a returning friend, we can't wait to see you at your next appointment at either of our Winnipeg clinics!

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