What is fluoride?

RealAge
Administration
Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth and prevents tooth decay. Your dentist or doctor may prescribe fluoride if it is not in your regular tap water. (Well water, for example, does not have fluoride added.) Fluoride medication may come as a gel, cream (toothpaste), tablet, chewable tablet, or a liquid that you can add to fruit juice. Follow the label instructions carefully and only take the fluoride dosage that is prescribed. Even when taking fluoride medication, you still need to brush your teeth at least twice a day and after meals, using a fluoride toothpaste. Also, be sure to floss at least once a day.
Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds that are composed of the naturally occurring element fluorine and one or more other elements. Fluorides are present naturally in water and soil.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.
Discovery Health
Administration
Fluoride is a compound added to most tap water supplies, most brands of toothpaste and most mouth rinses to reduce cavities. As teeth develop, fluoride becomes incorporated into them and makes them more resistant to decay. After teeth are formed, fluoride can help reverse the progress of early cavities. Sometimes, fluoride will prevent the need for corrective dental treatment.

The recent drop in the number of cavities can be attributed largely to the addition of fluoride in our drinking water. Mass water fluoridation has proven to be the most cost-effective measure available to reduce tooth decay. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that the acceptable concentration of fluoride in tap water is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. Levels significantly higher have been associated with discolorations of the teeth (usually a chalky white color) known as fluorosis.

Those who live in areas without fluoridated water -- or those who are very susceptible to cavities can ask their dentist about a high concentration, in-office fluoride treatment or a prescribed fluoride supplement. The supplement comes either as a gel, in tablets or drops. Sometimes, customized trays can be used during sleep to deliver higher doses of fluoride and help to strengthen teeth.

Continue Learning about Cavities

Cavities

Cavities are tiny holes in your teeth that have developed from decay. Left untreated, cavities will get larger, and can cause toothache and possible loss of teeth. Anybody can get a cavity, but you put yourself at greater risk if ...

you don't brush regularly, or frequently consume sweets or sugary drinks. Your dentist can help prevent cavities with fluoride treatments, and can find them by taking pictures (X-rays) of the teeth. Once found, the dentist may treat your cavity with a filling or if extensive, with a crown. If there has been an extensive infection, other treatments, including antibiotics or a root canal surgery may be indicated.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.