A parents quick guide to fluoride

When it comes to keeping our teeth healthy and strong, fluoride is often hailed as the hero mineral that is essential for great oral health.

If this is true, why then are we so confused about the pros and sometimes cons of using fluoride? To understand when and how to use fluoride for optimum results, we first have to recognise why it’s so important in the first place.



Teeth are made up of calcium and phosphate, but they’re susceptible to damage when acid from food leaches onto the tooth, causing these minerals to eventually break down. Fluoride can be likened to a shield. It coats teeth and actually incorporates itself into the tooth structure making it harder for acidic food to cause erosion and decay.  



The positive effect of fluoride is best seen in children’s teeth. Research shows that kids who are exposed to the mineral from a young age tend to have less decay over a longer period of time due to its protective benefits.

However, some parents are understandably concerned around the negative impacts that are potentially caused by using fluoride. It’s important to understand that in high doses it is in fact toxic. Although it is hard to overdose on the substance, there are strict guidelines on how much you should use on your child’s teeth so any potential risk factors are completely mitigated.

We recommend using a very small amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice daily. You will often hear us talking about “a smear” of toothpaste in very young children.



The amount of fluoride will differ in toothpaste brands and age appropriateness, however as a general rule, we recommend reading the label and looking for the PPM. This stands for Part Per Million and is how fluoride is measured in toothpastes.

In children’s toothpastes, you’ll generally find a PPM of 500 – 550. This is on the lower end of the spectrum so in many cases, when required our patients are put on higher amounts. Generally speaking though, most children and adults don’t need additional fluoride treatment on top of this (such as tablets) because many foods are made with fluoridated water. As well as this, it also is present in the tap water we drink.



The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends children using fluoride in toothpaste from 18 months old.  Prior to this you can wipe your child’s teeth with a damp cloth or brush gently with an infant’s toothbrush and water, or use an un-fluorinated baby toothpaste to get them used to a regular morning and night practice.

As your child grows up, your paediatric dentist will be able to assess your child’s individual fluoride needs at each visit.



While fluoride is a sure way to protect and fight against tooth decay, there are many other factors that will determine the state of your child’s dental position.

Our central focus at Macarthur Paediatric Dentistry is to empower every child with the tools, resources and education to become the hero of their own health so they have great oral wellness for years to come.

To start your child’s journey today, book an assessment here


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics and to help begin the conversation with your children’s dentist. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care professional prior to incorporating this as part of your child’s diet or health regimen.

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