Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies and is the most efficient agent available to help prevent tooth decay. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health professional organizations.
TWO TYPES OF FLUORIDE
Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surfaces of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. Topical fluoride is applied by using fluoride containing dental products such as a toothpaste, mouth rinse and gels. We generally recommend that a professional application of fluoride is applied twice a year during dental check-up’s.
Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drops or tablet form and can be prescribed by a dentist or physician. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants, and tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years. 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.
Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. We generally recommend the use of home and/or professional treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
- Exposed and sensitive root surfaces.
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits.
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake.
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides.
- Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments and/or medications.
- Recent history of dental decay.
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is also important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks and visit your dentist on a regular basis.