What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that is found in natural water sources in the environment. It is typically derived from healthy ground soil underneath small bodies of water.
When used as directed by a dentist or within the context of community water fluoridation programs, fluoride is a safe and effective agent that can be used to prevent and control dental caries (cavities).
How is fluoride good for teeth?
The average person's tooth enamel continuously goes through demineralization and remineralization.
Demineralization is the loss of minerals from the enamel. This occurs when acids (plaque and bacterium) attack the enamel on the tooth.
Remineralization is when minerals like calcium, phosphate, and fluoride are redeposited to the enamel through consuming food and drinks containing those minerals.
Insufficient remineralization - caused the under-consumption of required minerals - leads to tooth decay. This is where fluoride comes in: fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid. In some cases, it can also help reverse decay that has already begun.
For children under 6 years old, fluoride becomes incorporated into the developing permanent teeth, making it more difficult for acids to demineralize them.
When is fluoride intake most important?
It is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the timeframe during which the primary and permanent teeth are growing in.
However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. Topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in fighting tooth decay as they are for strengthening developing teeth.
Fluoride Treatment At Your Dentist’s Office
Additional fluoride is sometimes recommended if the food and drink one consumes is not providing a sufficient amount. Many over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes contain fairly low levels of fluoride, so stronger concentrations may be needed.
Your dentist can prescribe these stronger concentrations or apply fluoride treatment in stronger concentrations at your dental clinic.
Fluoride treatment at your dental clinic will typically be a one-time application of a gel, foam, or varnish solution. Varnishes are painted on the teeth, while foams are put into a dental tray and then applied to the teeth for a few minutes. Gels can either be painted on or applied via a tray.