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Oral facts and tips: Fluoride

The use of fluoride in improving oral health is one that has been long documented and often prompts fierce debate between those who advocate its use and those who do not.

Whatever your view, there's no hiding the positive effect fluoride has had on oral health.

Having the full facts about fluoride will help you make a more informed decision about its use, and the British Dental Health Foundation is offering the following facts and tips to help that process.

TEN FACTS ABOUT FLUORIDE

1. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in many foods and in all drinking water.

2. Fluoride can greatly help dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay.

3. The addition of fluoride to water supplies has been researched for over 50 years, and water fluoridation has been proven to reduce tooth decay by 40-60 per cent.

4. Only Hartlepool and Essex have enough natural fluoride in their water to benefit dental health. Other places have to have it added to their water supply. Only around 12 per cent of the population have fluoridated water mostly in the West Midlands and North East.

5. The addition of fluoride in toothpaste has been responsible for reducing decay by up to 50 per cent.

6. All children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). After three years old they should use a toothpaste that has 1350-1500ppm. These figures should be on the outer packaging.

7. Fluoride varnishes applied by the dentist can help further reduce children's dental decay.

8. Fluoride varnish treatments for children on the NHS have increased by 55 per cent in 2010/20111 and prescription of high fluoride toothpaste for those most at risk has increased by 34.9 per cent (2800ppm) and 27.5 per cent (5000ppm)2.

9. There is no scientific evidence of any adverse effects of water fluoridation as claimed by those who oppose it.

10. Levels of dental decay have fallen in fluoridated and non fluoridated areas in the UK, but distinct inequalities still exist.

FIVE TIPS ABOUT FLUORIDE

In addition to following the Foundation's three key rules for good oral health3, the following tips are recommended when it comes to fluoride use:

1. Parents should supervise their children's tooth brushing until age 7 and only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

2. Parents should also encourage their child to spit the toothpaste out and not swallow it or rinse after brushing

3. Fluoride supplements should only be taken on the advice of the dentist.

4. If you are unsure how much fluoride is in your water, contact your local water company.

5. Ask your dentist about fluoride varnishes to help protect your child's teeth from decay.

For free, confidential and impartial advice about how to improve your oral care, contact the Foundation's Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188 or email: helpline@dentalhealth.org. Alternatively, visit Tell Me About Fluordie, for more information on the subject.

---ENDS---

Editor's notes

1. Source: NHS Dental Statistics for England: 2010/11. NHS Information Centre.

2. Source: Prescribing by Dentists, 2010: England. NHS Information Centre.

3. Three key rules for good oral health: The British Dental health Foundation promotes three key messages for good oral health:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Cut down on how often you eat sugary food and drinks.
- Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

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