AIM: To discuss current concepts in the use of fluoride and to determine how much fluoride is sufficient for caries prevention but also how much is too much. Use of fluoride by young children is a balance between maximising caries efficacy and minimising the risk of fluorosis.
METHODS: Review of the current literature. This review considers the importance of amount, concentration and dose of fluoride applied from toothpaste and the implications for risk and benefit.
RESULTS: Dental fluorosis is dependent on local fluoride levels in the extra cellular fluid surrounding the tooth during its development. These fluoride levels are determined by the plasma concentration that in turn is a function of the daily intake of fluoride. Fluoride released from bone during remodelling may also contribute to fluoride levels in the tissue. There is evidence to suggest that the effects of fluoride resulting in fluorosis prior to eruption of the tooth are cumulative and dependent on the amount and duration of exposure rather than a specific window of vulnerability. In contrast to dilution of ingested fluoride in the large volume of plasma, dilution of toothpaste in oral fluids is relatively small. Hence, for a given dose of fluoride, higher fluoride levels can be achieved in the oral environment using small amounts of toothpaste with higher fluoride concentrations rather than larger amounts with lower fluoride concentrations.
CONCLUSION: It is concluded that for young children fluoride ingestion needs to be carefully controlled during the first six years of life and the best balance between risk and efficacy might be achieved by using small amounts of high fluoride toothpaste under close supervision from parents.