The importance of fluoride in your toothpaste
Dr. A. Sundar BDS, DGDP.General Secretary,
Sri Lanka Dental Association
There has been much debate over the years on whether your toothpaste
needs fluoride or not. The Sri Lanka Dental Association (SLDA), the apex
body for dental health practitioners in the country whose members have
been working tirelessly on protecting the Sri Lankan smile for over 83
years, has stepped in to offer some clarity on this matter.
To begin with, it is important to understand what fluoride is and
what role it actually plays in oral hygiene.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that disrupts the process
of tooth decay. Studies have shown that fluoride is able to do this by
making enamel more resistant to acid attack and reducing acid creation
by plaque bacteria. It works to prevent tooth decay by strengthening the
enamel which covers the tooth thus making it less susceptible to
cavity-forming acids and helps to stop the further progress of decay
during the early stages of a cavity.
"A tooth may begin to decay for various reasons but when you use a
toothpaste with fluoride it will slowly roll back that decay if it is in
the initial stages. It will form a hard barrier around the cavity and
not let the germs penetrate any further while it repairs that initial
stage of decay," said Dr. A. Sundar, General Secretary, Sri Lanka Dental
"And if you don't close that cavity the tooth will continue to decay
further and result in various other complications. Fluoride also plays a
preventative role, strengthening the enamel of the tooth to help prevent
it from decaying."
In fact studies of fluoride being effective in cavity prevention have
been so positive that the WHO included it as part of their policy in
The WHO Technical Report Series No. 846 on Fluorides and oral health
(1994) states, "One of WHO's policies is to support the widespread use
of affordable fluoridated toothpaste in developing countries.
This is particularly important in light of the changing diet and
nutrition status in these countries. Recent local studies have shown
that affordable fluoridated toothpaste is effective in [cavity]
prevention and should be made available for use by health authorities in
developing countries." And while it is a naturally occurring mineral,
found in trace amounts in water in certain regions,we need to brush
teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste to receive the ideal amount and
concentration of fluorideto help prevent tooth decay.
"There is a prevailing misconception that the naturally occurring
fluoride in the water we intake is sufficient to protect one's teeth
from cavity causing germs.
However, the concentration levels of fluoride in water is
insignificant and cannot serve as a substitute for regular use of a
fluoridated toothpaste," added Dr. Sundar.