Fluoride and dental care

What is fluoride?


  • is a mineral found naturally in sea water, some soil and air.
  • helps to strengthen teeth
  • plays an important role in preventing tooth decay.

Fluoride and oral health

  • Tooth decay happens when the bacteria in your mouth uses sugars and starches in food to produce acid.
  • The acid can cause minerals to be lost from the surface of your teeth. This is called demineralisation.
  • If demineralisation happens over time, a cavity is formed.
  • Fluoride helps repair the damaged tooth surface by remineralising and protecting your teeth from future acid attacks.

Water fluoridation

  • In most areas of South Australia, fluoride is added to tap water to help protect teeth against decay.
  • The amount of fluoride added is small and closely regulated.
  • It is not harmful to your health or the environment.
  • Water fluoridation is well recognised as a safe and effective way to protect your teeth.

Fluoride toothpaste 

  • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before bed at night helps to prevent tooth decay.
  • After brushing, spit the toothpaste out but don’t rinse.
  • Swallowing large amounts of toothpaste when adult teeth are growing (birth to 8 years) may cause white flecks to show on the new teeth. To avoid this:
    • children under 18 months should use a small, soft toothbrush with no toothpaste.
    • children 18 months to 5 years should use a pea size amount of low fluoride children’s toothpaste.
    • children 6 years and over should use a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Fluoride varnish

Fluoride varnish may be applied to you or your child’s teeth during a dental appointment to help strengthen teeth.

  • Teeth may temporarily have an orange discolouration, but this will soon disappear.
  • Avoid hot foods and eat a soft diet for the rest of the day.
  • Do not brush the treated area until the following day.
  • Where possible, avoid eating for four hours after application (this may be unsuitable for diabetic clients and young children).
  • Do not use other high concentration fluoride gels or rinses for several days. Keep up with regular tooth brushing morning and night.

Other sources of fluoride

  • A dental professional may apply a fluoride gel or foam if you or your child are at risk of tooth decay. This treatment is generally not used under 10 years of age.
  • Fluoride varnish can be applied by your dental professional to protect tooth surfaces. This may be used for adults and children of all ages.
  • Fluoride mouthwash may be recommended for use at home. Your dental professional will advise you when and how to use it.
  • SA Dental Service does not advise using fluoride tablets or supplements. If your tap water is not fluoridated, or if you usually drink rainwater, bottled water or filtered water, contact your dental clinic for more advice.

To help prevent tooth decay

  • Use a small, soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth and gums.
  • Brush each morning and before bed at night – spit the toothpaste out but don’t rinse.
  • Choose healthy snacks, like fruit and reduced fat cheese, but avoid frequent snacks.
  • Drink tap water instead of soft drinks and juices.
  • Chew sugar free gum between meals to stimulate saliva.