Fluoride use has been a major factor in the decline in the prevalence and severity of dental caries (i.e., tooth decay) in the United States. When used appropriately, fluoride is both safe and effective in preventing and controlling dental caries.
Dietary fluoride supplements in the form of tablets, lozenges, or liquids (including fluoride vitamin preparations) have been used throughout the world since the 1940's. Most supplements contain sodium fluoride as the active ingredient. Tablets and lozenges are manufactured with 1.0, 0.5, or 0.25 mg fluoride. To maximize the topical effect of fluoride, tablets and lozenges are intended to be chewed or sucked for 1-2 minutes before being swallowed. For infants, supplements are available as a liquid and used with a dropper.
Dietary fluoride supplements are intended for use with children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years. All fluoride supplements must be prescribed by a dentist or physician. The prescription should be consistent with the 1994 dosage schedule developed by the American Dental Association, American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Association of Pediatrics. Because fluoride supplements are intended to compensate for fluoride deficient water, the dosage schedule requires knowledge of the child's primary drinking water; consideration should also be given to other sources of water (e.g., home, child care settings, school, or bottled water) and to other sources of fluoride (e.g., toothpaste or mouthrinse), which can complicate the prescribing decision.
For more information about the School-based Fluoride Mouthrinsing Program, contact the Wisconsin Oral Health Program.