Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in water sources, as well as some foods, toothpastes, rinses and professional treatments. Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that strengthens teeth. Fluoride also helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth.
In children under 6 years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth. Children should get fluoride treatments every six months to provide extra protection against cavities. Fluoride also helps speed remineralization as well as disrupts acid production in already erupted teeth in both children and adults.
Fluoride treatments can be applied as:
- A gel can be painted or applied via mouth guard
- As foam put into a mouth guard
- As varnish painted on teeth
These dental fluoride treatments contain a much higher level of fluoride than the amount found in tooth pastes and mouth rinses. You will be advised not to eat, drink or smoke for at least 30 minutes following a professional fluoride treatment. This will help increase the fluoride’s contact with the teeth. Fluoride supplements are also available as liquids and tablets and must be prescribed by your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor.
People with certain conditions may be at increased risk of tooth decay and would therefore benefit from additional fluoride treatment.
Conditions at high risk for tooth decay:
- Dry mouth condition caused by certain medications
- Gum disease, also called periodontitis
- A history of frequent cavities
- Those who crowns and/or bridges
Dentists recommend the use of fluoridated toothpaste. Caution should be used with children who are more likely to swallow the toothpaste as only a pea size amount should be used. They should be encouraged to spit out as much as possible.
More information regarding the amount of fluoride is in your tap water, ask your dentist, contact your local water supplier or your local state or health department.