Fluorides make the tooth more resistant to acid attack, enable the tooth to remineralise (repair itself) more readily and interfere with the mechanism by which bacteria causes tooth decay. They should not be used alone to fight tooth decay without an alteration in the diet. In other words you should not binge on sweets and rely on a high fluoride intake to counteract the effects of poor diet control.

Diet control should be established first and the use of fluoride should be used as an additional weapon against tooth decay.

Fluorides alone will not prevent decay.

Systemic Fluorides (those that are swallowed) are taken when the teeth are developing during the first 16 years of life and would include:

  • Fluoride in the water supply at 1 part per million (ppm)
  • Fluoride tablets or drops
  • Fluoride specially made bread, salt and milk

These make the whole tooth structure and shape more resistant to tooth decay.

Although water fluoridation is the most effective public health measure against tooth decay, fluoride is usually very low in water supplies in some areas of the UK. In these areas you may wish to use fluoride tablets or drops. Although these are readily available in shops you should regard them as medicines and only give them to your children once you have discussed the implications with your-dentist. If a child has too much fluoride mottling may be the result. If you use tablets or drops the following guidelines should be adopted:

  • There must be a well-organized routine especially in a family with children of different ages.
  • There must be a regular and correct daily dose related to the age of the child (see below).
  • You must protect the child from overdose (the tablets should be secured in a ‘child proof bottle in a secure medicine chest).
  • No other fluoride supplements should be used. This means not swallowing toothpaste.

The daily doses are:

If the water supply has 0–0.3ppm fluoride

Age 2 weeks ­- 2 years 0.25mg
Age 2 years – 4 years 0.5mg
Age 4 – Age16 years 1.0mg

If the water supply has 0.3-0.7pm fluoride

Age 2 weeks ­- 2 years No supplements
Age 2 years – 4 years 0.25mg
Age 4 – Age16 years 0.5mg

From 0.7–1.0ppm fluoride, no tablets or drops are required.