Fluoride is an anti-cavity active ingredient available in over-the-counter (OTC) products that help prevent tooth decay and cavities (also known as caries), such as toothpastes, mouthwashes, and rinses. The most commonly used types of fluoride are sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride.
Fluoride can be the only active ingredient in an anti-cavity medicine or it can be found in medicines that contain additional active ingredients that address other oral health issues, such as plaque, gingivitis, and tooth sensitivity.
Fluoride is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label. Parents and caregivers should supervise young children to ensure they develop good teeth brushing and rinsing habits and avoid swallowing fluoride-containing medicines. Young children who swallow too much fluoride could develop dental fluorosis, which results in a permanent white staining on the teeth.
- Adults and children should brush their teeth with an anti-cavity paste or gel at least twice a day, or as directed by a dentist or healthcare provider.
- It is important to use the proper amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Use a smear or a grain-of-rice sized amount for children under three years old, or a pea-sized amount after age three.
- You should avoid swallowing anti-cavity mouthwash and rinse products.
- Sensitive teeth may be a sign of a serious problem that requires prompt care.
- Products containing stannous fluoride may create staining on the teeth, which is not harmful and may be removed by a dentist.
- You should see a dentist for regular check-ups.
- If you have any unexpected side effects, talk to a healthcare provider.
- You have tooth sensitivity that lasts or gets worse.
- You accidentally swallow too much. Immediately contact a healthcare provider or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
- All anti-cavity medicines are not the same and may have different age recommendations for children. Read the Drug Facts label carefully and consult a healthcare provider or dentist as directed.
- Talk to a dentist or healthcare provider before using an anti-cavity product containing stannous fluoride on a child under the age of 12.
- Fluoride-containing products are now recommended as soon as the teeth erupt. Use a smear or a grain-of-rice sized amount for children under three years old, or a pea-sized amount after age three.
- Parents and caregivers should help a child brushing his or her teeth until mastery is obtained. Supervise as necessary until children are capable without monitoring.
- Children under the age of 6 should use a pea-sized amount of paste or gel to minimize swallowing.
- Children under the age of 6 should be supervised in order to develop good brushing and rinsing habits and to minimize product swallowing.