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Fluoride is an anti-cavity active ingredient available in over-the-counter (OTC) products that helps prevent tooth decay and cavities (also known as caries). Because toothpastes, mouthwashes, and rinses containing fluoride help protect teeth from decay and cavities, these products are considered to be medicines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The most commonly used types of fluoride are sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride.

Fluoride can be the only active ingredient in an anti-cavity medicine or it can be found in medicines that contain additional active ingredients that address other oral health issues such as plaque, gingivitis, or tooth sensitivity.

Fluoride is approved by the FDA and is safe and effective when used according to label directions. Parents and caregivers should supervise young children to ensure they develop good teeth brushing and rinsing habits and avoid swallowing fluoride-containing medicines. Young children who swallow too much fluoride could develop dental fluorosis, which results in a permanent white staining on the teeth.

*Fluoride may not be contained in all products sold under this brand. Please read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information for specific products.

Tips for Medicines with Fluoride

When using fluoride-containing medicines, it is important to know that:

  • Adults and children should brush their teeth with an anti-cavity paste or gel at least twice a day, or as directed by a dentist or doctor. It is important to use the proper amount of fluoridated toothpaste: a smear or a grain-of-rice-sized amount for very young children, or a pea-sized amount after age three.
  • You should avoid swallowing anti-cavity mouthwash and rinse products.
  • Sensitive teeth may be a sign of a serious problem that requires prompt care.
  • Products containing stannous fluoride may create staining on the teeth which is not harmful and may be removed by a dentist.
  • You should also see a dentist for regular check-ups.
  • If you have any unexpected side effects, talk to a healthcare professional.

Stop use and ask a doctor if:

  • You have tooth sensitivity that lasts or gets worse.
  • You accidentally swallow too much. Immediately contact a doctor or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.

If you have questions or comments about the product you are using, call the toll-free 800 number on the drug facts section of the product.

Tips for Parents

  • All anti-cavity medicines are not the same and may have different age recommendations for children. Read the Drug Facts label carefully and consult a doctor or dentist as directed.
  • Talk to a dentist or doctor before using an anti-cavity product containing stannous fluoride on a child under the age of 12.
  • Fluoride-containing products are now typically recommended as soon as the teeth erupt. Parents and caregivers should help/supervise a child brush his or her teeth until mastery is obtained, usually around age eight.
  • Children under the age of six should use a pea-sized amount of paste or gel to minimize swallowing.
  • Children under the age of six should be supervised in order to develop good brushing and rinsing habits and to minimize product swallowing.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children. 

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