Fluoride significantly reduces tooth decay in children and adults. In doing so, fluoride prevents the needless pain, infection, and loss of teeth that can result from tooth decay. And, the use of fluoride saves “vast sums of money in dental treatment costs.”
Why is fluoride effective against tooth decay?
Fluoride strengthens the structure of your teeth, making them harder and more resistant to acid attacks. Acid forms when the bacteria in plaque break down sugars and carbohydrates from your food. If plaque is not removed regularly, the acid builds up on your teeth and can cause decay.
Fluoride bonds with the hard surfaces of your teeth and helps repair areas where acid attacks have begun, often reversing the early decay process. Fluoride also helps stop cavities in the roots of teeth, eases root sensitivity, and helps to eliminate the bacteria that cause gum disease.
When children get enough fluoride in childhood, it pays off in the long run.
Fluoride isn’t just for children. Adults benefit from it as well. When you take in fluoride in food or water, fluoride levels in your saliva increase and remain elevated for an extended period of time. As saliva bathes the teeth, the fluoride in it helps prevent cavities from forming.
How to get enough fluoride?
Almost all water contains some fluoride, but not necessarily enough to prevent tooth decay.However, if your family members drink well water or filtered, purified, or bottled water, you may not be getting enough fluoride into your body to protect your teeth. If you fall into one of these categories, let us know.
Most toothpastes today contain fluoride. When combined with the good dental habits of brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpastes can reduce the number of cavities in children and adults significantly. We recommend fluoride toothpaste for our patients.
When necessary, we will offer fluoride treatments that may include rinses or gels, drops, tablets, or prescription toothpaste that you use at home. A fluoride treatment after your regular dental cleaning is also highly effective. We apply fluoride in a topical gel with the use of a tray or a cotton applicator.
Thanks to water fluoridation and other techniques, we are getting more fluoride into our bodies. But can we get too much? Children can. When that happens, they may develop a condition called enamel fluorosis, which affects the enamel layer of the teeth. In mild cases, the teeth may be marked with white specks or streaks that are sometimes unnoticeable. In more severe cases, the enamel may be marked by brown spots, look pitted or rough, and be hard to clean.
Fluorosis occurs when children get too much fluoride while their teeth are developing. This usually happens in three ways:
- Taking more of a fluoride supplement than has been prescribed
- Taking a fluoride supplement when there is already enough fluoride in the drinking water
- Using too much toothpaste and swallowing it (this is the most common cause)
You can take several steps to ensure your child doesn’t develop fluorosis. First, bring your child in to our office as soon as the first tooth comes in. Tell us about your water supply, and we can help you find out how much fluoride is in the water that you and your family use. Then we can decide together if your children really need a supplement and, if so, how much.
At about the age of two or three, introduce fluoride toothpaste, using no more than a pea-sized amount on the brush. Supervise your children’s tooth brushing until they are about 8 years old, the age when most kids have the dexterity to manage alone. Make sure they brush thoroughly, then make sure they spit or rinse the toothpaste out of their mouths.
For more information
If you have any questions, we’d be happy to talk with you about it. Just give us a call or ask at your next appointment.