Often used in conjunction with professional teeth cleanings, fluoride treatments strengthen tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard, outer protective layer of the teeth that provides protection against decay and day-to-day exposure to foods and drinks with sugars and acids that can damage teeth. Along with daily brushing, flossing, and regular professional visits, fluoride treatments provide extra protection against decay.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that is present in many places in our environment including rivers, streams, and other water sources. It is also present in certain foods and beverages in varying amounts. Fluoride is sometimes added to products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses where it serves to help strengthen enamel.
In most cases, applying fluoride takes just a few minutes. Depending on the type of fluoride being applied, the teeth may be dried before application of the fluoride. In office fluoride treatments are a gel, foam, or more commonly, a varnish that is brushed on the teeth. With the varnish, you can go ahead and eat and drink right after application. You just have to avoid hard foods and hot beverages for 4-6 hours. This is so the fluoride coating is not disrupted, and will be able to work effectively.
Fluoride treatments at home
Some people can benefit greatly from getting additional fluoride through home fluoride use. For those individuals, a prescription can be made for tablets, rinses, or toothpastes that contain a stronger level of fluoride than can be found in the supermarket or drugstore. People who have dry mouths from medication or other medical conditions, for example, can be helped with a prescription fluoride supplement. Fluoride will also help with individuals who have high rates of dental decay, or who have tooth sensitivity.
If you have questions about home fluoride use, ask your dentist or hygienist for more information. You can also visit the following sites:
American Dental Association’s ‘Fluoridation Facts’
American Academy of Pediatrics’ Campaign for Dental Health website
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Too much of a good thing?
While it’s true too much of a good thing is still too much, there is no scientific evidence that fluoride in any amount is a health issue. However, there are cosmetic issues that can occur if too much fluoride is ingested.
Fluorosis is a condition that causes streaks, lines, or spots on the teeth when too much fluoride is present in young children. In serious cases, teeth can turn brown or gray. The most common occurrence of fluorosis is when toothpaste is eaten in large amounts daily. Of course, any toothpaste shouldn’t be eaten – so make sure your children are using toothpaste appropriately.
Fluoride treatments are just one part of a healthy dental regimen. When used alongside daily brushing and flossing and regular trips to the dentist, these treatments will help keep your teeth healthy, strong, and looking great. If you have any questions about fluoride or any dental procedure, don’t hesitate to contact us.