Fluoride preparations help to prevent tooth decay.
Use your fluoride product exactly as your doctor or dentist tells you to. If you have not been given specific directions, follow the instructions on the package.
Before giving a fluoride supplement (tablets or drops) to your child, make sure your doctor/dentist knows if the area where you live has fluoride added to the drinking water.
About fluoride preparations
|Used for||Prevention of tooth decay|
|Also called||Duraphat®; En-De-Kay®; Fluor-a-day®; FluoriGard®|
|Available as||Tablets, oral drops, mouthwash, and toothpaste|
Tooth decay (also called dental caries) occurs when holes form in parts of the enamel of a tooth. The main cause is due to a build-up of plaque. Using dental preparations which contain sodium fluoride, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes, can help to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. Many toothpastes and mouthwashes which are on general sale contain sodium fluoride. Some fluoride-containing dental preparations can also be prescribed by doctors and dentists.
In areas of the country where the fluoride content of drinking water is particularly low, fluoride tablets or drops can be prescribed as a supplement for children over 6 months of age. However, the topical action of fluoride on tooth enamel is considered more effective than when it is ingested.
How to take/use fluoride preparations
Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. It will provide more information about the preparation and how to use it. The doses below are the usual recommended amounts and are provided to act as a guide only. Your doctor or dentist will tell you what dose is correct for you or your child - you should follow the directions you are given.
If your child is taking fluoride tablets
- There are different strengths of tablet for different age groups of children.
- The usual dose is one tablet daily, preferably taken in the evening.
- The tablet should be sucked or allowed to dissolve in the mouth.
If your child is taking fluoride drops
- The usual daily dose for children aged between 6 months and 3 years is seven drops.
- Count out the drops on to a spoon, or into your child's drink or food. (Do not give the drops directly from the bottle into your child's mouth.)
- Give the drops at a different time of day to when the teeth are brushed.
If your child is using a fluoride mouthwash
- Read the directions on the label carefully. Some mouth rinses are intended to be used daily, and others are to be used weekly. Also, some rinses are supplied as drops which must be diluted with water before they are used.
- Your child should rinse the mouthwash around their mouth for 1 minute and then spit it out.
- After using the mouthwash, do not give your child anything to eat or drink for about 15 minutes.
If you or your child is using a fluoride toothpaste (Duraphat®)
- The toothpaste comes in two different strengths. The '2800 ppm' strength is suitable for adults and children over the age of 10 years. The '5000 ppm' strength is suitable for adults and children over 16 years of age.
- Brush your teeth with the toothpaste for the amount of time specified on the packaging before spitting it out. The directions on the pack will tell you how often to use the toothpaste - it will be either two or three times a day.
- It is recommended that you use the toothpaste to brush your teeth after meals, and that you do not drink anything or use a mouth rinse for at least 30 minutes afterwards.
Getting the most from the treatment
- It is important to get into a regular habit of good oral hygiene. In particular, brush teeth regularly, at least twice a day. Teach your children good oral hygiene as young as possible.
- Have regular dental checks at intervals recommended by your dentist. Your dentist can also advise about special coatings for your child's teeth to help prevent tooth decay.
Can fluorides cause problems?
Using a fluoride dental preparation is unlikely to cause any problems when used as directed. On occasion, white flecks may appear on the teeth even when recommended amounts of products are used. Rarely, yellowish-brown tooth discoloration can appear if more than the recommended amounts are used. Speak with your doctor or dentist if you are concerned about either of these.
How to store fluoride preparations
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Prof Cathy Jackson