Effects and Sources of Fluoride

The use of fluoride, both through dietary and topical applications, has led to dramatic drops in caries rates.

How Does Fluoride Help Prevent Dental Caries?

Through topical mechanisms, the main effect, fluoride works by:

  • Inhibiting tooth demineralization
  • Enhancing remineralization
  • Inhibiting bacterial metabolism

Through systemic mechanisms, the lesser effect, fluoride works by:

  • Reducing enamel solubility through incorporation into its structure during tooth development

What Are the Primary Sources of Fluoride?

Topical Fluoride is the most beneficial and is obtained through:

  • Fluoride toothpastes
  • Gels, foams, mouthwashes
  • Fluoride varnish

Systemic Fluoride is obtained through:

  • Water fluoridation
  • Dietary fluoride supplements
Joanna Douglass, BDS, DDS
Joanna Douglass, BDS, DDS


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1999) Achievements in public health, 1990–1999: fluoridation
of drinking water to prevent dental caries. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 48:933–940.

Weyant RJ, Tracy SL, Anselmo TT et al. Topical fluoride for caries prevention: executive summary of the updated clinical recommendations and supporting systematic review. American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs Expert Panel on Topical Fluoride Caries Preventive Agents. J Am Dent Assoc. 2013. 144(11):1279-91.