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How Much Fluoride Is In Fluoride Gel and Other Dental Products?

Fluoride ToothpasteMy brother was at the dentist a few days ago and he was wondering if it was worth it to have his dentist apply a fluoride gel to his teeth.  He wanted to know if there was really that much more fluoride in the dentist's gel than is in his toothpaste and fluoride mouthwash.  I told him that there is a lot more fluoride in the professionally-applied gels than there is in his home dental care products.

Usually dentists only give children fluoride gel at routine appointments, however adults may benefit from fluoride treatment.  In the book Fluoride in Dentistry, Ole Fejerskov states, "Fluoride-containing mouth gels may be applied, usually by the dental professional once yearly, to individuals living in communities with low concentrations of fluoride in the water supply."

If you live in a community with water fluoridation and you brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, you may want to consult with your dentist on whether or not the extra fluoride will do any good.

After answering his question, I thought that other people may be interested in how much fluoride there is in different dental products.

To make the amounts more clear, I will talk about fluoride concentration in parts per million in this article.

You can get a better perspective on PPM in the following article: How Much Fluoride Is in a PPM (Part per million)?

How Much Fluoride is In Various Dental Products?

1 PPM: Tap Water.  Since the dental community has worked so hard to get fluoride in the public water supply to help prevent cavities, I figured I would add water into this list.  The concentration goes up to 3 PPM if you boil that water in a Teflon-coated pot or pan.

226 PPM: Fluoride Mouth Wash.  226 PPM is the maximum allowable fluoride concentration available in over the counter fluoride mouthwashes (0.05% NaF), such as ACT Restoring Mouthwash.

910 PPM: Prescription Fluoride Mouthwash.  910 PPM is an acceptable concentration for prescription-strength fluoride mouthwash.  Some prescription fluoride mouthwashes that contain stannous fluoride have a concentration of 970 PPM.

1500 PPM: Toothpaste.  Most toothpastes are now at 1500 PPM of fluoride.  The number has gradually increased over time.  In the 1990's most toothpaste in the United States had only 1000 PPM of fluoride.  If you don't want to spend the money on fluoride mouthwash, you can get the same cavity-fighting effect by simply brushing longer so that the toothpaste remains in contact with your teeth for more time.

12,300 PPM: Fluoride Gel.  Remember the strawberry/orange/mint-flavored gel that your dentist gave you when you were a kid?  The reason that it helps your teeth is because it contains so much fluoride — it's made up of 1.23% acidulated phosphate fluoride.

19,300 PPM: Alginate Impression Material.  Unexpectedly, that pasty stuff that dentists use to take impressions of your teeth contains a lot of fluoride!  This study evaluated eight types of alginate and listed the PPM of each.  I took the average to come up with 19,300 PPM.  Another study has also looked at the fluoride concentrations in alginate impression material and came up with similar results.  Don't worry about getting too much fluoride though, since most of it stays locked up inside the impression material.

19,400 PPM: Stannous Fluoride Topical Solution.  Although this isn't used as much as the fluoride gels and varnishes, some dentists do apply topical stannous fluoride to their patients.

22,600 PPM: Fluoride Varnish.  Fluoride varnish is painted on your teeth, similarly to how nail polish is painted on your nails.  We usually use this to help combat tooth sensitivity.  Fluoride varnish can also be used in children rather than the gels since it is easier for kids to swallow lots of the gel than it is for them to swallow a lot of the fluoride varnish.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot of fluoride in many of the dental products that are out there.

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the amount of fluoride in dental products?  I'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!


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3 Comments |  Leave A Comment

  1. Good Post. I often use these numbers when talking to patients/parents. parts per million (ppm) is much easier for everyone to understand. Still, I did not know toothpaste has crept up to 1500ppm.

    • Hi Dr. Brandon - Thanks for the comment! It was interesting to look all of these up. I'm not sure if we ever learned about the high fluoride content of alginate, but they did tell us not to take more than a few impressions per patient each day.

      We had been taught that most toothpastes contain 1000 ppm, but I noticed that most toothpastes say (0.15% w/v fluoride ion) which would translate to 1500 ppm. I talked with one of our pedo professors and she agreed that most of it had gone up to 1500 ppm.

      I double checked and found this page that says that you can convert between % w/v and ppm/ppb, so I think it's 1500. This Wikipedia page says 14500 ppm, but I'm not sure about their numbers... Let me know if you find anything different.

  2. I buy Ultra Brite toothpaste with Baking Soda and Peroxide. Instead of brushing i put a little toothpaste on either side of my molars and I leave the toothpaste in my mouth for about 5 minutes. This will not only harden the enamel of your teeth but it will also soften any hardened tooth calculus. After doing this for about a week everyday i get some plain old baking soda mix it with regular tap water in a cup till it forms a slushy texture then i brush both upper molars, youll be suprised how much calculus is there!

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Tom, Creator of Oral AnswersHi, I'm Tom. I recently graduated from dental school and am now a dentist in Bridgewater, Virginia. I started this blog to help people take better care of their teeth. You can learn more about me or ask me a question.

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