Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Here, our Charlottetown dentists explain how topical fluoride treatments work to protect your teeth.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral found in all-natural water sources and is the ionic form of the trace element fluorine, which is commonly found in the environment; fluorine reaches water sources by leaching from soil and rocks into groundwater.
When used as directed by a dentist or within the context of community water fluoridation programs, fluoride is a safe and effective agent that can be used to prevent and control dental caries (cavities).
What is the benefit of fluoride?
Throughout your life, the enamel of your teeth is going through a constant cycle of demineralization and remineralization.
Demineralization occurs when the enamel loses mineral content. This happens when acids (formed by plaque and bacteria in the mouth) attack the enamel.
During remineralization, minerals like calcium, phosphate, and fluoride are redeposited to the enamel when we drink water or eat certain mineral-rich foods.
If you are unable to consume an adequate amount of minerals then demineralization will be unable to occur and tooth decay can result.
Fluoride, then, helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid. In some cases, it can also help reverse decay that has already begun.
Fluoride is absorbed into the developing permanent teeth of children under six years old, making it more difficult for acids to demineralize them.
When is fluoride exposure most important?
It is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. It is during this stage of their lives that their teeth are growing in.
However, fluoride is just as important for adults as it is for children. Topical fluoride from toothpaste, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in helping to prevent tooth decay as they are for strengthening developing teeth.
Professional fluoride treatments
Sometimes, fluoride consumed via water and food is not sufficient to protect the teeth, and in these cases, additional fluoride application is advisable.
There are a variety of over-the-counter fluoride toothpaste and mouthwashes, although these contain relatively low levels of fluoride.
Stronger concentrations are available by prescription, and your dentist can also apply fluoride treatment in stronger concentrations at your dental clinic.
Fluoride treatment at your dental clinic will typically be a one-time application of a gel, foam, or varnish solution. Varnishes are painted on the teeth, while foams are put into a dental tray and then applied to the teeth for a few minutes. Gels can either be painted on or applied via a tray.