Fluoride is a natural element that is found in soil, water (both fresh and salt) and in various foods. This means we all ingest some fluoride on a daily basis. Fluoride is also found in many types of toothpaste. Your dental professional may also use fluoride treatments, such as: fluoride rinses, gels and varnishes.
Common sources of fluoride:
- Drinking water
- Only three communities in Nunavut have fluoridated water: Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Arviat. Some bottled water also contains fluoride.
- For maximum effect, fluoridated toothpaste should be used twice a day to brush teeth. Children should use smaller amounts than adults. Children should only be using fluoridated toothpaste if they are able to spit – it is important not to swallow the toothpaste. Children should always brush under the supervision of an adult.
- Fluoride varnish
- Fluoride mouth rinse
- This is a liquid containing sodium fluoride – a rinsing time of one minute is required with this solution. Fluoride mouth rinsing is not recommended for children under six years of age.
- Fluoride gels/foams
- These are typically applied by a dental professional every six months. The gel or foam is provided in a foam tray and will remain in the mouth for approximately four minutes.
- Fluoride supplements
- These contain very low concentrations of fluoride and come in either drops or tablet form. They should only be used when there is no fluoride in the drinking water with careful supervision by an adult
Fluoride protects your tooth enamel against the acids that cause tooth decay. The regular use of fluoridated products (toothpaste and rinse) will help prevent cavities.
Is fluoride safe?
Yes! The use of fluoride for the prevention of dental caries is approved by over 90 national and international professional health organizations, including:
- Health Canada
- Canadian Dental Association
- Canadian Public Health Association
- Canadian Medical Association
- World Health Organization
What is fluoride varnish?
Fluoride varnish is a protective coating that is painted on a child’s teeth to prevent cavities. It can also be painted on teeth that already have cavities. Fluoride can slow down or help stop cavities from getting bigger. This does not replace regular dental checkups by your dental professional as your child may still need dental treatment.
The fluoride varnish will be painted on your child’s teeth one or two times each year.
How is fluoride varnish applied?
Trained providers are able to apply fluoride varnish using a small disposable brush and painting the varnish directly onto your child’s teeth.
After fluoride varnish is applied:
Your child’s teeth may look yellow or cloudy on the first day. This color will gradually go away. It is normal for the fluoride varnish to make the teeth feel sticky. This only lasts a short time.
To give the fluoride varnish maximum benefit, your child should:
- Eat only soft foods at the next meal.
- Not brush or clean teeth until the next morning, any residual fluoride varnish will be easily removed the next day.
- Have a drink of water whenever they like.