What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral naturally present in water sources and is derived from the trace element fluorine, commonly found in the environment. It enters water sources through the leaching process from soil and rocks into groundwater.
When appropriately utilized under the guidance of a dentist or as part of community water fluoridation programs, fluoride serves as a safe and effective agent for preventing and managing dental caries (cavities).
How is fluoride good for teeth?
The process of demineralization and remineralization is ongoing for your tooth enamel.
Demineralization occurs when acids produced by plaque and bacteria attack the enamel, leading to the loss of minerals.
During remineralization, essential minerals such as calcium, phosphate, and fluoride are replenished in the enamel through the consumption of water and mineral-rich foods.
Insufficient remineralization, often due to a lack of necessary minerals in your diet, can lead to tooth decay.
Fluoride plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay by enhancing the resistance of teeth against acid. In some cases, it can even help reverse the early stages of decay.
For children under six years old, fluoride becomes incorporated into the developing permanent teeth, making them more resistant to demineralization caused by acids.
When is fluoride intake most important?
It is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the timeframe during which the primary and permanent teeth are growing in.
However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. Topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in fighting tooth decay as they are for strengthening developing teeth.
Fluoride Treatment At Your Dentist’s Office
Sometimes, fluoride consumed via water and food is not sufficient to protect the teeth, and in these cases, additional fluoride application is advisable.
While there are many over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes, 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 treatments at your dental clinic usually involve a single application of a gel, foam, or varnish solution. Varnishes are carefully applied to the teeth, while foams are placed in a dental tray and then applied to the teeth for a few minutes. Gels can be applied by painting them on or using a tray for application.