While much has been written about the pros and cons of fluoride in municipal water supplies, and about the benefits and risks of fluoride toothpaste and topical dental fluoride treatments, it is undeniable that fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay, and is an effective way to protect tooth enamel from the deleterious effects of excess acid in the mouth.
That being said, there is much less agreement on the amount of fluoride that is beneficial, although it is generally acknowledged today that fluoride is as helpful for adult teeth as it is for a child’s teeth. One way to ensure that your teeth are adequately protected is to speak to your dentist about your medical and dental history, your eating and dental hygiene habits, and your history of dental caries and gum problems. Your dentist will help assess the need for periodic fluoride treatments and will explain the reasons for beginning such treatments if you haven’t routinely had topical fluoride applied.
What Is Fluoride?
A natural mineral, fluoride is present in some foods and beverages, notably black tea, seedless raisins, grape juice and wine, blue crab and shrimp, and coffee. Because added fluoride is so common in water, foods and beverages that are prepared with tap water will also normally contain fluoride, but the amounts are minimal and generally inadequate to provide any measurable dental benefit.
The best way to boost the level of protection and to assure that your tooth enamel reaps the benefits of fluoride is to add other products that contain the mineral to your daily dental routine. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste, for instance, can help to slow the buildup of acid that leads to formation of destructive bacteria. There are also mouth rinses that contain fluoride, as well as supplements in both liquid and tablet form. Topical treatments applied by your dentist are relatively long lasting, and are some of the best ways to assure that your teeth remain as healthy as possible.
Over-the-counter products contain low doses of the mineral, whereas your dentist may recommend a higher dose product that is available only by prescription. There are few risks associated with fluoride, even at higher levels. Sometimes a white spotting on tooth enamel is noticed in children, but it is usually minor.
Best Reasons for Fluoride Use
Fluoride levels in the body fluctuate; every day, your body absorbs some and loses some. Because the level of fluoride is not constant, it must be routinely replaced in order to continue to help tooth enamel resist the bacteria that cause decay.
Research confirms that fluoride strengthens existing enamel and can sometimes even help repair damaged enamel. In young children, fluoride is also beneficial for developing teeth. But it is just as vital for the adult mouth, perhaps even more important in some ways.
There are a number of adult conditions that increase the risk of decay:
- Dry Mouth, caused by chronic illness or medications
- Gum Diseases, including gum recession that expose more of the tooth structure
- Frequent Cavities, and a history of dental problems
- Crowns, Bridges or Braces
- Pitted or Grooved Teeth
- Teens and adults who are habitual snackers, and those who consume large quantities of carbonated beverages or sweet desserts are also more prone to dental problems, whether they stem from inadequate hygiene or excess sugar.
Some professionals caution against fluoride toothpaste for toddlers and young children because they often swallow the paste, and this can result in higher concentrations of fluoride in their systems. However, many believe that the benefits outweigh any risks. Fluoride, combined with proper brushing and flossing, a healthy diet and regular dental checkups, should assure a bright dental future.
Ongoing Fluoride Treatments
Several types of topical fluoride procedures are available: The most common are applied as a gel, foam or varnish by your dentist during a scheduled visit. Application is a quick, non-invasive office procedure that requires no special preparation. Often, there is no waiting period required afterwards before eating or drinking normally. Although prices vary, most fluoride treatments are reasonable, and many dentists recommend a treatment in conjunction with a normal checkup every six months.
Dental insurance may typically pay for the cost of such semi-annual treatments up to the age of 14 or 18, but coverage varies widely. While some plans disallow treatment coverage for adults, other companies may treat the cost as a preventive measure, preferring to reimburse patient for part of all of the fee rather than paying for future fillings or dental repairs. If you have dental coverage, it’s always wise to check in advance about your particular company’s policies.
Can We Answer Your Questions About Fluoride Treatments?
At Briglia Dental Group, we will be happy to answer your questions about fluoride treatments, and discuss your needs for full-service dental care whether you are eight or 80. We are dedicated to helping all our patients maintain bright smiles and healthy teeth, and we reaffirm that commitment by designing personalized treatment plans.