During childhood, when teeth are still forming, fluoride works by making tooth enamel more resistant to the acid that causes tooth decay. For adolescents and adults, the benefits are just as great. Fluoride helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before they become visible in the mouth.
Studies indicate that people who drink optimally fluoridated water from birth will experience approximately 35 percent less decay over their lifetime.
Fluoride is safe and effective when used appropriately and exists naturally in water sources. More than 50 years of research and experience have shown that fluoridation at optimal levels does not harm people or the environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Daily Fluoride Intake
Adults and children should consume fluoride every day. If your water is not fluoridated, speak with your dentist about how you can get the appropriate amount of fluoride for you and your family. Children who regularly drink bottled water, well water, or unfluoridated tap water should get their fluoride in some other way. Dietary fluoride supplements (tablets or drops) can be an effective alternative to water fluoridation for the prevention of tooth decay. These supplements are available by prescription from your dentist or physician.
Tooth Decay Prevention
ADA accepted toothpastes and mouth rinses containing fluoride help prevent tooth decay for both children and adults. These toothpastes and mouth rinses can be purchased over the counter. Sometimes a higher dose is recommended for patients who are at a higher risk of tooth decay. Prescription strength toothpaste and mouth rinses can be purchased with a prescription from the dentist and also can be purchased in the office.
Tooth decay occurs when plaque- that sticky film of bacteria that accumulates on teeth- breaks down sugars in food. The bacteria produce damaging acids that dissolve the hard outer surfaces of the teeth (enamel). If the damage is not stopped or treated, the bacteria can penetrate through the enamel causing tooth decay (cavities). Cavities weaken teeth and can lead to pain, tooth loss, or even widespread infection in severe cases.
Fluoride combats tooth decay in two ways:
- 1. It is incorporated into the structure of developing teeth when it is ingested (either through fluoridated water, tablets, or drops).
- 2. It also protects teeth when it comes into contact with the surface of the teeth.
Benefits of Fluoride
- Fluoride prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel.
- Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, them.
- Fluoride cannot repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from forming.
- Another added benefit to fluoride is that it can help with general tooth sensitivity.
It is recommended that both children and adults receive an in-office fluoride treatment following their routine hygiene visit. This treatment can come in the form of a gel, foam, rinse or paint-on varnish. These fluorides are a more concentrated therapeutic dose than self applied fluorides and can help remineralize areas.
At Dental Health Care Associates we believe in prevention and early diagnosis of tooth decay. For all new patients we offer a complimentary fluoride treatment at their first hygiene visit. We recommend that all patients, children and adults receive a fluoride treatment at the end of their routine hygiene visit.