What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral found in soil and some bodies of water. This mineral has elements which can gently strengthen the state of your teeth.
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?
Fluoride is important to your tooth health as your teeth naturally go through a recurring demineralization and remineralization process.
Demineralization is the loss of minerals from the enamel. This occurs when acids, produced by plaque and bacteria, attack the enamel of the teeth.
Remineralization is when minerals like calcium, phosphate, and fluoride are redeposited to the enamel by drinking or eating fluoride-rich substances. Tooth decay is what occurs when the teeth are not sufficiently remineralized.
Fluoride, then, 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 six 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
Fluoride consumed through food and drink is not always enough to protect or rebuild the enamel of your teeth, which is when outside help becomes necessary.
While there are many over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes, these contain relatively low levels of fluoride.
Stronger concentrations are available by prescription, and your dentist can also 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.