The Beauty of Fluoride
To help protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay, nothing tops fluoride. The good news is that this mineral is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The bad news is that tooth enamel is attacked every day by acids – formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks. In fact, it can actually help reverse early decay.
Fluorides — from drinking water, toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments — are as important in fighting tooth decay as in strengthening developing teeth. Studies have shown that fluoridated water alone has lowered rates of tooth decay by 20 to 50 percent, allowing some children to grow up without getting cavities (or with fewer of them). The benefits of fluoride have been documented for over 50 years, and are supported by many health and professional organizations.
Some Reasons for Fluoride Treatment
Sometimes the fluoride many people receive from food and water it is not enough to help prevent decay. Your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
- Exposed and sensitive tooth and root surfaces (sometimes caused by gum disease).
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits.
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake.
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides.
- Inadequate saliva flow and dry mouth conditions due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications.
- Protect at the point where a crown meets the underlying tooth structure
- Protect around the brackets of orthodontic appliances.
- Recent history of dental decay.
As good as it is, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay. It is part of good oral hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing regularly, eating balanced meals, and minimizing sugary snacks.
Getting a Fluoride Treatment
Professional fluoride treatments are standard for most children and often recommended for adults. We recommend fluoride treatments be given following a cleaning and exam. Teeth will be painted with a gel, paste or liquid, or they may be covered with trays filled with a fluoride compound.
We will ask you to wait 30 minutes or more before eating and drinking anything, including water. Your teeth might feel slimy, sticky or even gunky and fuzzy, but that residue is a good sign that the fluoride is adhering to the teeth long enough to do its job by forming a barrier of protection.
Fluoride for Children
In children under 6 years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it more difficult for acids to harm the teeth. Marion Dental Associates generally recommends that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups. It is very important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.
As permanent teeth are growing, fluoride is considered especially beneficial. Tooth enamel forms tighter bonds as teeth mature and fluoride can actually combine with enamel as this bonding is taking place, adding extra protection from decay. After enamel has finished growing, fluoride stops penetrating at the deeper level of the mineral bonds but it still works well at protecting tooth surfaces from plaque and cavities.