Kids aren’t the only ones that need fluoride.
Many oral care brands direct their messages to kids and their parents for a few reasons. If children develop good habits when young, they’ll likely continue practicing them when adults. Plus, strengthening teeth starting in infancy will help protect them as they grow.
In order to promote healthy teeth and prevent tooth decay, the Cleveland Clinic recommends parents should introduce fluoride to their babies starting at 6 months continuing through age 16. Speak with your pediatrician or dentist about appropriate amounts and methods for fluoride in children.
What about after the age of 16? Do adults need to use oral care products that contain fluoride? Is drinking fluoridated water still important in adulthood?
Do You Still Need Fluoride in Adulthood?
Yes, people benefit from fluoride, even through adulthood. The American Dental Association (ADA) states that adults can decrease their cavities by 25% by drinking fluoridated water. An official ADA statement released in 2007, notes that anyone who is at moderate to high risk for tooth decay should think about getting professional fluoride treatments.
Adults who are at risk for tooth decay due to certain conditions should consult their dentist about adding fluoride to their oral care routines, especially anyone who:
- Smokes or chews tobacco
- Suffers from dry mouth
- Has gum disease or a history of it
- Wears braces or orthodontic appliances
- Has a history of frequent cavities
- Suffers from diabetes
- Has an eating disorder
- Lacks good oral hygiene
- Abuses alcohol or drugs
- Has had radiation to the head or neck areas
Also, anyone who doesn’t have access to fluoridated water or uses a water filtration system that removes minerals, like fluoride, from water, should speak to their dentist about supplementing their oral care routines with fluoride treatments.
How Much Fluoride Do You Need?
According to Mayo Clinic, there are no recommended daily allowances for fluoride, however, they do list the following dosages:
- Birth to 3 years: 0.1 – 1.5 mg
- 4 to 6 years: 1 – 2.5 mg
- 7 to 10 years: 1.5 – 2.5 mg
- Adolescents and adults: 1.5 – 4 mg
Most fluoridated municipal water systems have about .7 mg per liter of water, but you can verify with your local health department.
How Adults Can Safely Get Fluoride?
While plenty of misinformation about fluoride exists, you need to know about fluorosis, a condition that affects children under the age of eight while their teeth are forming. The most common form of fluorosis appears as white spots on the teeth. This form does not harm teeth or affect the enamel. Rare, severe forms of fluorosis, cause pitting in teeth as well as changes to the enamel.
According to the CDC, “Children older than 8 years, adolescents, and adults cannot develop dental fluorosis.”
Adults can get fluoride by drinking fluoridated water, using fluoride fortified dental care products, or getting fluoride treatments at their dentist’s.
Where Can You Get Fluoridated Water?
The CDC tracks municipal water systems that contain fluoride. As of 2018 (the most recent data available), around 63% of the US population receives fluoridated water, and about 73% of people that rely on community water systems receive fluoridated water. If you want to find out more information about your state or local system, take a look at the CDC’s State Fluoridation Table.
What Are Professional Fluoride Treatments?
Professional fluoride treatments take place in your dentist’s office. They only require a few minutes to complete and cost between $10 and $30, depending on the treatment, your dentist’s pricing, and where you live.
To begin, your dentist or dental hygienist will clean and polish your teeth, to make sure you have no underlying issues. Next, they will dry your teeth and brush on the fluoride, which can be a foam, gel, or varnish. Finally, they will ask you not to brush, rinse, eat or drink anything for about 30 minutes after your fluoride treatment. It’s a painless and typically flavorless procedure that is worth the protection.
Your age, overall health, and risk for cavities will determine how often you need fluoride treatments. They are usually every 3, 6, or 12 months.
Fluoride-Fortified Oral Care Products
Should you use fluoride-fortified oral care products if you drink fluoridated water? Yes, and here’s why: The ADA and other experts recommend we can best protect our teeth by drinking water that contains fluoride and by using fluoride-fortified toothpaste and rinses.
How much fluoride does toothpaste contain? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) most toothpaste sold in the United States contains 1,000 to 1,500 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. If you use fluoride-fortified toothpaste two times a day, you should get adequate fluoride. Discuss any concerns with your dentist.
On the other hand, mouth rinses with fluoride tend to only contain between 230 and 920 ppm. Some experts recommend against using fluoride-based toothpaste and mouthwash at the same time. Adults would do well to brush two times a day with a rinse in between or as recommended by your dentist.