What Is Fluoride and How Can It Help Prevent Tooth Decay?

Dentist,Fluoridates,A,Child's,Teeth.,Strengthening,Of,Tooth,Enamel. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water. Most of the population receives their daily amount of fluoride from fluoridated water, which 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. Many dental offices, including Park View Pediatric Dentistry, offer fluoride treatments after your child’s cleanings in order to reinforce them. Not to mention, a variety of products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, contain fluoride to help your teeth fight decay on a daily basis. Learn more about how fluoride products and treatments can help protect your teeth from developing cavities.

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral in the bones and teeth but is also naturally found in food, water, soil, plants, and more.

How Does Fluoride Help Teeth? 

Your teeth’s enamel is essential, as it protects and strengthens them against decay.

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.” As described earlier, 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 that help prevent tooth decay by making the tooth enamel more resistant to those attacking acids. It can also actually reverse very early decay.

How Does Fluoride Help Prevent Cavities?

Through the processes described, fluoride is able to continuously restore the enamel, which will prevent bad bacteria from being able to eat away at and decay your teeth.

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 toothpaste 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 offices. 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.

What Age Is Fluoride Intake Most Important? 

For children aged six months to 16 years, getting the proper amount of fluoride is essential. With their teeth developing during this time, fluoride is vital to their oral health and to maintaining their new adult teeth.

However, a child can have too much fluoride. The American Dental Association cautions parents to avoid using reconstituted formula, which requires mixing with fluoridated water, as it could provide them with too much fluoride.

What Happens If a Child Has Too Much Fluoride? 

If your child consumes too much fluoride, it can lead to dental fluorosis, which can cause changes in the appearance of their enamel. In most cases, this may appear as bright white spots on their teeth. While most children do not have this problem, it’s important to exercise a few precautions when teaching your child how to care for their teeth, including:

  • Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing a child or infant’s teeth.
  • Encourage your child to spit out their toothpaste when brushing their teeth.
  • Avoid fluoride mouthwash for children under six years.
  • Avoid fluoride supplements for infants under six months.

Park View’s Point of View

At Park View Pediatric Dentistry, we believe that sufficient fluoride is most important for children to ensure extra protection against cavities in their developing teeth.

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.

How Often Can My Child Have Fluoride Treatments? 

Fluoride treatments are often repeated every three, six, or twelve months, depending on each patient’s individual needs.

How Do I Know If Our Water Is Fluoridated? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a tool for people to check if their area is currently receiving fluoridated water and how much fluoride is added.

If you’re not receiving fluoridated water, you can have your children utilize fluoride toothpaste and/or mouthwash and ask our team about our fluoride treatments.

Contact Park View Pediatric Dentistry

Fluoride is essential to the development of your child’s teeth and setting a good foundation for future oral health. Contact us today at 212-879-6518 to learn more about fluoride treatments and preventative dentistry at Park View Pediatric Dentistry in New York, NY.

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