Fluoride brochure cover

You Don't Have to Be a Kid to Have Tooth Decay

You may have heard of a good-for-your-teeth substance call fluoride, but do you know exactly what it is?

  • Fluoride is a compound of fluorine, an element in the earth’s crust. Fluoride compounds are components of minerals in rocks and soil, and as water passes over rock formations, it dissolves the fluoride compounds, releasing fluoride ions. What this means is that small amounts of fluoride are present in all water sources. (Fluoride is also naturally present in all foods and beverages, but the concentration varies.)
  • Extensive research shows that optimal levels of fluoride not only reduce cavities in children and adults, but also help repair the early stages of tooth decay. How is fluoride so effective in preventing cavities from forming? When exposed to the teeth, fluoride is easily absorbed into tooth enamel, which it strengthens in a process called “remineralization,” building a barrier so that new cavities can’t form.
    Fluoride Drop

    Fluoride is good for your teeth because it is absorbed easily into tooth enamel and is effective at preventing cavities (otherwise known as dental caries) by keeping tooth enamel strong. Strong enamel means strong teeth—and less decay.

    Fluoride Also Acts to Repair or Remineralize Areas of the Tooth that Have Become Weakened by Acid Attacks

    According to the American Dental Association, dental decay is effectively prevented by a combination of both topical fluoride and systemic fluoride.  

    • Topical fluorides, such as toothpaste, mouthrinse, and professionally applied treatments, are applied to the surface of the teeth and strengthen tooth enamel, making teeth more resistant to decay. One of the most effective ways to fight tooth decay is to brush at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. Prescription-strength fluoride rinses or toothpastes may also be prescribed for individuals who are at higher risk of decay, such as those with a previous history of tooth decay or certain medical conditions, such as dry mouth. Fluoride varnish is a gel that is applied directly onto the tooth surface. A fluoride treatment may consist of gel or foam that is placed in a tray and held against teeth for several minutes.
    • Systemic fluorides are swallowed and distributed through the bloodstream to the teeth, and these are generally delivered in the form of fluoride tablets, drops, and lozenges, as well as fluoridated water.Fluoridation of community water supplies is simply the adj

    Community Water Fluoridation and Your Town

    Fluoridated water is one of the most efficient and effective ways to deliver fluoride. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that fluoridating community water is one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. More than 65 leading health organizations, including the American Dental Association (ADA), Massachusetts Dental Society, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and American Cancer Society, advocate for community water fluoridation on the basis of the scientific evidence that continues to support its safety and effectiveness.

    The benefits of community water fluoridation are not to be overlooked. In fact, research shows that water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing tooth decay by about 20 to 40 percent, according to the ADA. Approximately 72.4 percent of the U.S. population served by public water systems receives the benefit of optimally fluoridated water.

    Cities and towns that have community fluoridated water adjust the level of existing, naturally occurring fluoride in their public drinking water to an optimal level for oral health. This level is set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Is your city or town fluoridated?

    More on Community Water Fluoridation

    Fluoride Brochure


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    Read the MDS brochure geared for the public 


    Is Your Community Water Fluoridated?

    Check the list of Massachusetts cities and towns.