July 21, 2016
If good oral health is important to you—and we hope it is—you should learn about the benefits of fluoride. For starters, it’s one of our best defenses against tooth decay. However, there is some confusion as to what fluoride is exactly, who needs it, and whether it is safe.
1. What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that is widely found in nature, as well as some of the foods we eat. It’s also a common ingredient in toothpaste. In most communities, fluoride is added to the drinking water because researchers discovered in the 1930s that individuals who drink fluoridated water have significantly less cavities than those who don’t.
2. How Does Fluoride Help Teeth?
Acids in the mouth attack tooth enamel, causing minerals to be lost (called demineralization). Unfortunately, demineralization can lead to tooth decay. Fluoride redeposits minerals onto the enamel layer (in a process called remineralization), making teeth less vulnerable to acid attacks from plaque bacteria.
3. Who Needs Fluoride?
While we often associate fluoride with children’s dental treatments, adults need fluoride as well. Studies have consistently shown that not only does fluoride strengthen developing teeth, but it also reduces tooth decay in people of all ages. In fact, we are seeing an increased need for fluoride among adult patients. Two thirds of the most commonly prescribed medications can cause dry mouth, which disrupts the normal balance between saliva and acid. This imbalance often leads to accelerated decay, and makes the need for fluoride even more significant.
4. Is Fluoride Safe?
About two-thirds of the US has water fluoridation, or fluoride added to their drinking water. As such, the effects of fluoride have been comprehensively studied. In fact, there have been more than 3,000 fluoridation studies, making this topic one of the most thoroughly researched public health issues.
This research has led the CDC to conclude that water fluoridation is one of the top 10 most important public health measures of the 20th century. Water fluoridation is also endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association.
Similarly, topical fluoride—like the kind you would find in toothpaste or mouth rinses—is also considered a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay. Just be sure that as with any dental product, you look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance when selecting an item containing fluoride.
5. What Occurs During a Professional Fluoride Treatment?
A fluoride treatment is an easy way to keep your teeth in great shape and only takes a few minutes. During a professional fluoride treatment, we’ll apply fluoride to your teeth using a cotton swab or brush. Once we’re finished, you’ll have to refrain from eating, drinking, or rinsing for 30 minutes. This gives the fluoride time to absorb and repair microscopic holes in your tooth enamel.
6. Who Can Benefit from a Professional Fluoride Treatment?
Both children and adults can benefit from topical fluoride treatments applied at the dentist office. While fluoride treatments are helpful for anyone, they are especially important if you are at high risk for tooth decay. In particular, we especially recommend a fluoride treatment if your mouth is particularly dry, you have gum disease, you have a history of frequent cavities, or you have crowns, bridges, or braces.
So, not only is fluoride safe and effective for children and adults alike, it’s a crucial step in preventing cavities. We’re pleased to offer fluoride treatments to our patients—ask about it at your next appointment!