Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in many foods and fluids, including meat, eggs, fish, and tea. Some places also add fluoride to public or bottled water, plus it can be found in many toothpastes, mouth rinses, and professional treatments. It helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay.
The tooth’s enamel layer is composed of minerals that are constantly added and lost throughout life. Mineral loss from tooth enamel (demineralization) occurs when plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth form acids that erode the enamel. To counteract this, minerals such as fluoride, phosphate, and calcium are redeposited to the enamel layer from your diet through a process called remineralization.
Excessive demineralization without sufficient remineralization to restore tooth enamel leads to decay.
Benefits of Fluoride Treatment
The primary benefit of fluoride is that it helps to prevent dental caries. It can also reverse tooth demineralization. If plaque builds up on the tooth and begins to erode the enamel, fluoride treatments and supplements can be used to replace the minerals that have been lost, allowing your teeth to stay healthy.
Fluoride treatments in the form of supplements are particularly beneficial to children under the age of 6 years. Although their permanent teeth have not erupted yet, the administration of fluoride treatment can help to fight gingivitis, prevent the buildup of bacteria around teeth and gums, and help to establish long-term dental health.
People who require special care, like those using orthodontic appliances, may also require fluoride treatments on a regular basis to keep bacteria from building up underneath the braces. Generally, individuals with weak teeth, poor brushing habits, or those with a history of cavities and don’t visit the dentist regularly can use fluoride treatments.
What to Expect During Fluoride Treatment
Before getting an in-office fluoride treatment, the patient’s teeth are dried and cleaned to remove stains from the surface. For home-based treatments, you should brush and floss the teeth before using a fluoride rinse or gel, preferably at night time just before going to bed, to reduce the likelihood of washing away the product.
In-office treatments are more advisable because they contain a greater concentration of fluoride compared to toothpastes or mouthwash, plus they stay on teeth longer, allowing maximum remineralization.
Fluoride Treatment FAQ
What forms of fluoride are available?
Besides diet, fluoride can be found in fluoridated toothpastes and mouthrinses. For in-office treatments, they be in the form of foam, varnish, or gel that is painted directly on the teeth or used as a tray that is worn like a mouth guard. The professional fluorides commonly used are neutral sodium fluoride (mostly used by people with restorations and dry mouth) and acidulated phosphate fluoride (APF), which is acidic.
Is fluoride safe?
When used in the right amounts for the age group (1,000 ppm for children under 6 and 1350-1500 for adults) it is safe and effective. However, it can be unsafe at high doses, especially for children.