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What Is Fluoride?

Periodic Table showing fluoride
Everyone knows that fluoride and oral hygiene go together… but why? What is fluoride, and how does it protect your teeth? Maybe you haven’t given a moment’s thought to such questions, but if you’re the curious type, read on.

What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a simple form of the element fluorine, which naturally exists in the earth’s crust, in water, and even in the air. Fluorine is related to elements like chlorine, which is used to sanitize pools, and iodine, which is often added to table salt. While your body can obtain some fluoride from foods like green beans, raisins, and pickles, most people think of it primarily as an ingredient in dental care products or an additive to tap water.

How does fluoride protect your teeth?
Fluoride works in multiple ways. First, fluoride changes the composition of tooth enamel, making it more effective at fighting acid. This is important because cavities form when the acid created by bacteria in your mouth eats away at the enamel, creating small holes or grooves in the enamel. Second, fluoride can help repair damage to your teeth in a process known as remineralization. In this case, fluoride actually puts minerals back into tooth enamel, hardening the spots tooth decay has weakened. Finally, fluoride also inhibits plaque’s ability to produce the acid that causes tooth decay.

Fluoride that you ingest in foods strengthens enamel while your teeth are growing, but does little to repair damage from cavities. However, topical fluoride (in toothpaste, mouth rinses, or even drinking water) helps repair the tooth decay caused by acids and sugary foods and drinks.

Where can you get fluoride?
While fluoride is naturally present in foods and water, there’s typically not enough there to achieve the maximum dental health benefit. That’s why many communities add small amounts of fluoride to their drinking water supply.

Many dental care products—toothpastes and mouthwashes—contain low doses of fluoride to provide the health benefits described above, as well. Finally, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments at routine cleanings and check-ups in order to help protect your teeth.

Fluoride is especially important for children, as it not only protects their baby teeth, it also strengthens the adult teeth that have yet to come in.
Of course, fluoride complements—not replaces—a good oral hygiene routine. There’s no substitute for brushing twice daily and flossing every day, as well as visiting your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and exams.


What is Fluoride and How Does It Work? Dr. David Evans, DDS. April 15, 2016.

How does the fluoride in toothpaste prevent cavities? Is there any kind of ‘natural’ fluoride protection, or is it only in artificial compounds? Francine Van Meter and Mary Hayes, retrieved from “” on April 19, 2017.

How does fluoride work? Reviewed by Steven Dowshen, MD in October 2014. Retrieved from “” on April 19, 2017.


Helping Care for Your Children’s Teeth

Tooth decay can be prevented with good oral care. Children learn their habits from their parents and caregivers. You can help your children learn healthy habits by setting a good example by brushing with them daily, taking them to the dentist regularly and giving them healthy foods.

Brushing and flossing remove plaque that leads to disease and breaks down the teeth. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain, loss of teeth and loss of self-confidence. Children who have good oral care at home and regular dental visits can reach adulthood without suffering from tooth decay and other health problems.

How to Brush & Floss:Example of how much toothpaste to use for kids

(Left to right: For children under three years old, use no more than a smear or grain of rice sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. For children three to six years old, use only a pea sized amount.)

Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing morning and night. Use a soft bristled, child sized toothbrush and smear a grain of rice sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. You might want to sit with their head in your lap so you can see into their mouth easily. Begin flossing your child’s teeth when they have two teeth that touch.

Example of best toothbrushing techniquesIt’s important that an adult provide supervision while brushing for the first few years. If your children cannot tie their own shoes, they are probably not ready to brush by themselves. It takes dexterity to be able to properly reach all surfaces of the teeth and tongue, which most children do not have until age 10.

Flossing once a day removed plaque from between the teeth, where toothbrush bristles cannot reach. This technique can be hard for younger children to learn. The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends that you floss your children’s teeth until they can do it along, around age 10. Hand held flossers can work as aids while children learn to floss on their own.


Example of best flossing techniqueUse about a foot of floss. Wind most of it around the tips of both middle fingers. This allows you to use your thumbs and pointer fingers to move the floss around. Use gentle back and forth motions to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and guide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently rub the floss against both sides of the tooth. Repeat these steps for the rest of the teeth. As you move through your mouth, unwind the clean floss with one finger and take up the used floss with the opposite finger.

Natural Cavity Fighters

Depending on where you live, your tap water may already contain a naturally occurring mineral called fluoride. It helps make teeth strong and protects them from decay. Children who consume the recommended level of fluoride are less likely to get cavities than children who do not drink fluorinated water. Such statistics about your area can be found online at


Thank You Giveaway

Couple after winning a Valentine's Day giveaway from their Richmond dentist

All of us at Midtown Dental want to thank you for the support you’ve shown us as a community. We see over 2,000 patients all over the Tri-Cities, and some that travel hours just for our doctor’s care. All of your reviews, comments, and Likes on Facebook help give our office recognition online to prospective new patients. That’s all thanks to YOU!

So let’s give back to you!

Starting in February, when you “check-in” on Facebook, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a pretty awesome giveaway.

Two lucky couples will win dinner and a movie on us to Budd’s Broiler and Anthony’s, as well as movie tickets.

Haven’t Liked our Facebook page? Do it now!
Review your Richland, WA dentist on Facebook

Not a Facebook user? Not a problem. Simply leave us a review about your experience.

Rate your Richland dentist on Google

Review your Richland dentist on Rate a Biz

Thank you for all that you do! We appreciate each and every one of you.
Have a blessed day!

Must check-in on Facebook or leave a review before the end of February 2017 to be eligible.


Six Things You Might Not Know About Kid’s Teeth

#1 How often kids snack – not just what they eat – can be harmful to their teeth.
Photo of healthy foods for kids teeth

  • Teeth need breaks between meals and snacks to prevent cavities.
  • Grazing on snacks or sipping juices or sport drinks all day causes cavities.
  • Eat and drink in one sitting instead of sipping and snacking all day long.

#2 BABY teeth matter.

  • Baby teeth can help children chew food and speak clearly.
  • They shape the children’s faces and guide adult teeth into place.
  • Cavities can cause pain and affect a child’s ability to sleep, learn and pay attention.

#3 Babies need their teeth checked by their first birthday.

  • Children who have their teeth checked by their first birthday are less likely to need fillings or operating room visits in the future.
  • Having teeth checked at a young age helps to identify potential problems early and establish healthy habits.
  • Bringing kids in at a young age prepare them to behave better at the dentist or doctor’s office in the future.

#4 Cavities are preventable.

  • Brush twice a day, two minutes at a time, with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice until age 2, then the size of a pea after that). Begin flossing once a day as soon as teeth touch.
  • See a dentist twice a year. Most dental insurance plans cover two preventative dental visits each year.
  • Ask the dentist about sealants – they protect teeth from cavities.

#5 Kids need help brushing until they can tie their shoes.

  • Help kids brush their teeth until they are at least 6 years old.
  • Use songs and a two minute timer to make tooth brushing fun!
  • Making brushing a family affair. You are a child’s biggest role model. Brushing in front of them demonstrates healthy habits.
    #6 Teens need reminders to protect their healthy smiles.

    • Encourage teens to choose foods low in sugar and carbohydrates. Popular and convenient snacks like crackers, fruit leather and sport drinks are major cavity causers.
    • Remind teens to brush twice a day and floss daily to prevent bad breath!
    • Encourage the use of mouth guards when playing sports to help protect their smiles. Discourage oral piercings as they can break or chip teeth.

    Taking Care of Yourself During Pregnancy

    Photo of a woman holding her pregnant stomach

    In the beginning of your pregnancy, it is so important to receive enough nutrients, especially calcium, protein, phosphorous, folic acid and vitamins A, C, and D. Your baby’s teeth begin to develop during the second trimester and what you eat greatly affects the growth of your unborn child, including their teeth.

    Making Healthy Food Choices:

    • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
    • Beans, peas and lentils
    • Papaya, tomato juice, oranges/orange juice, strawberries, cantaloupe and bananas
    • Whole grain products with fortified folic acid
    • Lean beef, skinless poultry and fish
    • Fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese or unsweetened yogurt
    • Vegetable oil instead of butter
    • Drink water instead of sugary alternatives

    Avoid empty calories such as: Candy, sweetened cereals, desserts, biscuits, fried foods, hot dogs, ice cream, soft drinks/soda and sugar sweetened fruit drinks/tea.

    Feeling hungry in-between meals? While this is normal, frequent snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and choose healthy foods when you need a between-meal snack. For tips on how to eat a balanced diet, visit

    It is a myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth during pregnancy. The calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. However, a mother’s decay-causing bacteria can be passed to her child which is why it is so important to tell your dentist if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon.

    Hormones during pregnancy can make your gums more sensitive, red, tender and likely to bleed easily when your teeth. This condition is an early form of gum disease called gingivitis. This is common in pregnant women but can lead to more serious diseases of the gums and bone that hold your teeth in place.

    Reduce your chances of developing tooth decay and gum diseases by brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing frequently, and visiting your Tri-Cities dentist regularly. Call Midtown Dental clinic today at (509) 392-8022 to schedule a cleaning.