What is fluoride and how can it help prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water. Fluoridated water can be found in about two-thirds of cities and towns in the United States. Fluoride also plays an important role in today’s oral health care in preventing tooth decay.
How does fluoride help prevent cavities?
A process called “demineralization” refers to the loss of minerals from the tooth’s enamel. This occurs when acids formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth attack the tooth’s enamel. The good news is that the tooth’s enamel can be strengthened with the reverse process called “remineralization.” This can occur when minerals like fluoride, calcium and phosphate are redeposited to the tooth’s enamel. If the tooth’s enamel is experiencing too much demineralization, without the repairing benefits of remineralization, the unwanted environment for tooth decay is present.
Fluoride is one of the most powerful minerals to help prevent tooth decay by making the tooth enamel more resistant to those attacking acids. It can also actually reverse very early decay.
How can your family receive the cavity-fighting benefits of fluoride?
Fluoride is found in certain foods (meat, fish and eggs) and in most cases, local drinking water. It can also be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpastes or mouth rinses. The mouth rinses containing a low strength of fluoride can usually be purchased over the counter, while those with a higher concentration of fluoride, may require a prescription. Many dentists, especially pediatric dentists, offer fluoride treatments in their office. These treatments contain a much higher level of fluoride and are applied directly to the teeth in the form of a gel, foam or varnish. Varnishes are generally painted right on the teeth, while foams are placed in a mouth guard for one to four minutes. Fluoride supplements are also available in liquid or tablet form with a prescription from your dentist or doctor.
We use fluoride treatments for patients who are at an increased risk of tooth decay, including those with:
• Poor oral hygiene
• Active cavities
• Eating disorders
• Poor diet
• Tooth enamel defects
Children may also be given fluoride supplements to take in small doses each day, especially if there is not a sufficient amount of fluoride in their regular water supply or if they only use store bought bottled water. Children may also be given prescription fluoride gel to use at home to decrease tooth decay. Fluoride treatments are often repeated every three, six or 12 months, depending on each patient’s individual needs.
Contact us to learn more about fluoride treatments and preventative dentistry at: