Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and helps prevent tooth decay. We can get these benefits from fluoridated drinking water and by using over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and rinses. For superior protection against cavities, your dentist might recommend a professional fluoride treatment.
How does fluoride work?
The enamel in our teeth is largely composed of calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, mineral crystals, which makes tooth enamel the strongest substance in the body. But enamel isn’t indestructible. The oral bacteria in plaque create acids that strip away calcium and phosphate minerals, a process called demineralization. Demineralization leaves the tooth surface weaker and more vulnerable to decay.
Fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride works on the surface of the tooth to attract calcium and phosphate ions found in saliva, rebuilding tooth structure and reversing early decay. Even better, it joins with these ions to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite crystals are larger, stronger, and more resistant to acids than hydroxyapatite. Fluoride not only remineralizes teeth, it leaves them stronger than they were originally.
Finally, studies have shown that fluoride inhibits both the growth of cavity-causing bacteria and their ability to produce acids.
Systemic and Topical Fluoride
Fluoride works internally and externally. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets, and topical benefits come from applying fluoride directly to the tooth surface.
Fluoride in drinking water has been shown to reduce the risk of childhood cavities by 25% or more. Fluoride bonds with the minerals in a child’s developing teeth, creating stronger, more cavity-resistant enamel even before the permanent teeth erupt.
Topical fluoride can be found in over the counter toothpastes and mouthwashes. Fluoridated drinking water strengthens the natural cavity-preventing properties of saliva. For the most effective topical fluoride protection, your dentist can provide a professional fluoride treatment.
Fluoride Treatments Are an Easy Addition to Regular Checkups
Fluoride treatments aren’t difficult or time-consuming. Fluoride can be administered as a gel, a varnish, a rinse, or a foam. It can be applied with a swab, brush, as a mouthwash, or in a tray. Aftercare generally only requires avoiding food and drink for 30 minutes.
And while fluoride treatments are especially important for children, adults can benefit as well. Dexterity issues which make brushing difficult, receding gums which expose parts of the roots, and conditions like dry mouth can leave the teeth more vulnerable to cavities as we age.
Professional fluoride protection lasts for months, and the treatment can be repeated as needed every three to 12 months.
Fluoride treatments strengthen teeth, help prevent tooth decay, and are easy to schedule with your regular checkups. Talk to your dentist to discover how fluoride treatments can benefit you and your family.