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Stannous fluoride is used as a protective treatment during dental checkups. It could help reduce cavities, prevent tooth sensitivity, and fight gingivitis, among other benefits.

Stannous fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in over-the-counter toothpaste and mouthwash.

Read on to learn about the potential benefits and drawbacks of stannous fluoride, and how it compares to another type of fluoride, sodium fluoride.

Like other forms of fluoride, stannous fluoride helps protect your teeth from tooth decay. More specifically, this type of fluoride can:

In addition to using it at home in your toothpaste, stannous fluoride may also be applied once or twice a year as a protective treatment during your regular dental cleanings.

These fluoride treatments come in the form of a gel or foam that’s left on your teeth for several minutes. If you’re at an increased risk for tooth decay, you may need to receive these treatments from your dentist more often.

The biggest concern with using stannous fluoride was that it stained your teeth. It also used to have an unpleasant taste and leave a gritty feeling in your mouth. However, since 2006, newer formulas are less likely to cause staining.

If you receive a stannous fluoride treatment from the dentist, there’s still a slight risk of staining. This is due to the fact that office treatments have higher concentrations of fluoride.

In general, there seem to be more concerns with fluoride than there are over stannous fluoride versions.

Stannous fluoride isn’t considered a human carcinogen. That said, it’s always a good idea to supervise young children to make sure they don’t swallow toothpaste, regardless of the type being used.

The goal of toothpaste in general is to clean your teeth to prevent cavities. Such benefits may be found with any toothpaste, whether it contains stannous fluoride or not. However, if you want to reap more oral health benefits, toothpastes with stannous fluoride are recommended.

You can find stannous fluoride toothpaste over the counter at most grocery stores and pharmacies, or online.

A stannous fluoride rinse is a daily mouthwash. It’s typically used in the morning after you brush your teeth for a boost of protection, not to mention even fresher breath.

While you can use this type of mouth rinse along with stannous fluoride-containing toothpaste, not everyone needs to use mouthwash if they brush their teeth twice a day.

Your doctor may recommend using mouthwash if you continue to have problems with cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath despite other oral health habits.

You can find stannous fluoride mouthwash over the counter at most grocery stores and pharmacies, or online.

Sodium fluoride is another type of fluoride you might see in oral health products, such as some toothpastes. It can help fight cavities while strengthening your enamel. However, it can’t fight gingivitis, prevent tooth decay, and freshen your breath like stannous fluoride.

One study even found that stannous fluoride was far more effective in fighting bacteria compared to sodium fluoride.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re looking for all-around protection (and not just cavity prevention), then stannous fluoride is the preferred fluoride of choice for your oral health. Sodium fluoride doesn’t cut it when considering tooth decay prevention.

Stannous fluoride is just one small part of your overall oral health. You can maximize your oral health with the following best practices:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily.
  • Use gentle, small circles when brushing your teeth along the gumlines, not straight across your teeth.
  • Floss once a day (usually before brushing).
  • See your dentist for biannual cleanings and checkups.
  • Drink fruit juice, soda, and other sugary drinks sparingly.
  • Consume acidic fruits in moderation.
  • Reduce the amount of starches you eat. They stick to your teeth and promote tartar.

At minimum, you should see your dentist once every six months for routine cleanings and checkups. But, if you start to notice something unusual with your teeth, you don’t have to wait until your six-month checkup. Call for an appointment if you notice any of the following:

  • bleeding gums, especially after brushing and flossing
  • painful teeth or gums
  • increased tooth sensitivity, or pain when you eat or drink
  • loose teeth
  • chipped or broken teeth
  • spots on your teeth, tongue, or gums

As the leading form of fluoride, you can find stannous fluoride in major brands of over-the-counter toothpaste, as well as some mouthwashes. For most people, the benefits of fluoride outweigh any potential risks.

Before you consider switching your toothpaste, talk to your dentist for advice on what products work best for your own oral health needs.