There is a lot of focus on children and dental care, which is why many oral care brands deliver their message to kids and parents. This makes a lot of sense because developing good habits early on can set kids up for better oral health for their entire life.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s vital to start early, ensuring that babies as young as 6 months through 16 years old get fluoride. This helps reduce tooth decay and strengthens teeth. Of course, it's important to talk with your pediatrician and dentist about how much fluoride they need.
With all the focus on children and fluoride, it might seem like adults don’t really need it anymore. The truth is that there is no age limit, and adults need to keep using fluoride to maintain optimal oral health.
Adults and Fluoride
Adults of all ages benefit from using fluoride, and there is no age where you should stop using it. You can get it from many sources; in fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that adults can actually reduce cavities by 25% just by drinking fluoridated water. They also released an official statement that suggests people at a moderate to high risk of tooth decay should add professional fluoride treatments to their dental routine.
Adults who are at greater risk for tooth decay because of medical conditions like diabetes should consult a dentist about supplemental fluoride treatments. This includes people in the following categories:
- Smokers or those who have smoked or chewed tobacco
- People with gum disease or a history of gum disease
- Anyone who has cavities
- Sufferers of dry mouth, as caused by medications and medical issues
- Patients who’ve had radiation around the head or neck
- Alcoholics, alcohol abusers, or illicit drug users
- Anyone with eating disorders, now or in the past
Additionally, if you have had bad oral hygiene in the past or worn any type of braces or orthodontic appliance you should ask about supplemental fluoride. And if you use a water system that filters out fluoride, or drink unfluoridated water, you should also ask.
The Mayo Clinic says that there is no set recommended daily allowance for fluoride. However, they do offer the following fluoride doses by age:
- From birth to 3 years: 0.1 to 1.5 mg
- From 4 to 6 years: 1 to 2.5 mg
- From 7 to 10 years: 1.5 to 2.5 mg
- Adolescents and adults: 1.5 to 4 mg
Most public water sources are fluoridated and have around .7 mg per liter of water. Ask your local health department to find out what the levels are in your community.
Is Fluoride Safe for Adults?
A quick search online will show you just how much misinformation there is out there about fluoride. One thing you might find is the rare condition fluorosis. This usually happens to children 8 years or younger, and shows up in the form of white spots on teeth. In reality, most of the time this doesn’t actually harm teeth or even affect teeth enamel. There is a rare, severe form of this that can cause pits in teeth and changes to the enamel.
Children that are over the age of 8, including adolescents and adults, cannot actually develop dental fluorosis, according to the CDC.
Adults usually get their fluoride by drinking water that has been fluoridated, or through dental care products that contain fluoride. These work well when done in conjunction with fluoride treatments through a dentist.
Where Does Fluoridated Water Come From?
Many communities across the nation add fluoride to their public water sources. The majority of homes and businesses in the U.S. get water from community water sources. (Those who do not, typically get their water from wells.)
The CDC tracks this information, and they say that about 73% of people who use community water systems receive fluoridated water. So, yes, there are some community water systems that do not fluoridate their water. If you want to know about your water, talk to your utility provider or your local health department. In total, the CDC estimates that 63% of people in the US receive fluoridated water, as of data available in 2018. You can find out more about your local water source with the CDC’s State Fluoridation Table.
In-Office Fluoride Treatments
If you’re at risk or don’t get enough fluoride, you may want to go to a dentist for supplemental fluoride treatments. These take only a few minutes and are affordable, ranging from $10 to $30, depending on location and materials used. Fluoride treatments are painless and mostly flavorless, so it’s not an uncomfortable procedure.
Most of the time you’ll first receive a teeth cleaning and polish, followed by a checkup to rule out underlying oral problems. They then dry your teeth and apply fluoride, which can be a gel, varnish, or foam. Usually, you’ll be instructed to avoid eating and drinking for 30 afterward.
Your dentist will recommend treatment frequency to you based on the current state of your teeth, age, and risk factors. Usually, this is every 3, 6 or 12 months.
Fluoride-Fortified Oral Care Products
Even if you drink fluoridated water, you should still use oral care products that are fortified with fluoride. This offers you intrinsic and extrinsic protection from dental problems. This includes using toothpaste and mouth rinses that have fluoride.
For mouth rinses, you’ll usually see fluoride that falls between 230 and 920 ppm.
Your toothpaste should also be fortified with fluoride. Ideally, you’ll brush twice a day and rinse in between, but check with your dentist first for their recommendations.