Fluoride Fast Facts
- Fluoride is a mineral that exists naturally in water, though not in high enough levels to protect teeth.
- Fluoride is added to drinking water supplies as a public health measure for reducing cavities. Decisions about adding fluoride to drinking water are made at the state or local level.
- In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services lowered the levels of fluoride from a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to 0.7 milligrams per liter. The change was recommended because Americans now have access to more sources of fluoride (such as toothpastes and mouthwash) than they did when fluoridation was first introduced.
- Before teeth erupt through the gums, the fluoride taken in from foods, beverages and dietary supplements makes tooth enamel stronger, so it is more resistant to tooth decay. After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay.
- Toothpastes and other dental products such as mouthwashes may contain fluoride. If so, they are regulated as drugs by the FDA and will be clearly labeled regarding ingredients, directions for use, and warnings, if any. Fluoride-containing products are safe and effective when used as directed; however, children under age 6 should not use fluoride mouth rinse unless directed to do so by a dentist or doctor. Children younger than 2 years old should only use toothpaste with fluoride if the child’s dentist or doctor recommends it.