Fluoride Treatment

What Is Fluoride And Why Is It Important To My Teeth?

An article was published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) in August 2006 with updated standards for the recommendations of the use of fluoride applications. They state fluoride is not just for children anymore!

Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance that is present in almost all sources of drinking water. It is necessary for the proper development of teeth and bones and it protects teeth once they have erupted into the mouth.

Topical fluoride, applied directly to the enamel surface, helps provide additional protection against decay after the teeth have come into your mouth. Fluoride enhances the replacement of minerals lost from your enamel surfaces, re-hardening the tooth. If decay is present but still in the enamel layer of the tooth, fluoride can help stop its growth before you require a filling. This is important news for all ages!

Our office uses an application called fluoride varnish. Most people are familiar with the foam trays. The fluoride varnish is a updated form of fluoride, which has been shown to work much better than the foam applications. The fluoride varnish contains high concentrations of the fluoride ion in a resin carrier for slow absorption directly into the enamel of the tooth. The varnish forms a sticky layer on the tooth following application and hardens on contact with saliva. When it remains on the teeth for four to six hours, most studies have shown it will help to reduce the formation of decay by about 25% to 45%. 

Children and Fluoride Concerns

There are some concerns regarding the correct amount of fluoride that children should have in their diet. Too little might lead to tooth decay, while, too much could lead to enamel fluorosis. Fluorisis is the discoloration that will be seen in the adult teeth, which are growing beneath the gums. However, once all of the permanent teeth have erupted into your mouth, enamel flurosis can no longer develop. If parents or caregivers are worried about this, they can have their water tested to determine the amount of fluoride is in the water. They might need to give their children fluoride supplements. 

While we highly recommend brushing and flossing your children's teeth, it is not recommended to use fluoride based toothpastes or dental products with them, until after the age of two. This is an important precaution. Many children like the taste of toothpaste and mouthwash and they might want to eat or drink it. We would like you to teach your children that these products should not be swallowed, but spit out. Mouthwash might have an alcohol base, and children should not swallow it. Very large amounts of fluoride, in very small bodies, could be potentially poisonous. It is best to keep both the toothpaste and mouthwash out of the reach of children, just to be safe.

We have more information available in the office about your children's dental care if you have questions or would like more information. 

Determining The Use of Fluoride Treatments

We recommend brushing and flossing every day, using an American Dental Association approved toothpaste; however, some adults are at a higher risk of tooth decay. Fluoride treatments might be of benefit to them. 

There are three levels of risk factors for dental caries or cavities. 

  • Low Level Risks:

    • No cavities during the last three years.
    • No factors that may increase the risk for cavities.
  • Moderate Level Risks:

    • Children younger than six years who had no cavities in the last three years but have at least one caries risk factor.
    • People older than six years of age who have had one or two cavities in the last three years and have at least one caries risk factor.
  • High Level Risks:

    • Children younger than six years who have had a cavity in the last three years,
    • The presence of multiple caries risk factors,
    • Have a low socioeconomic status,
    • Have a low levels of fluoride in their drinking water or diet,
    • Have xerostomia, also known as dry mouth.
    • Patients older than six years who have had three or more cavities in the last three years,
    • The presence of multiple caries risk factors.
  • Other considerations for risk factors include, but are not limited to:

    • Presence of high amounts of decay-producing bacteria,
    • Poor oral hygiene,
    • Prolonged nursing after an infant is asleep or baby bottle syndrome,
    • Family dental health, genetic abnormalities or environmental enamel defects,
    • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy,
    • Eating disorders, drug or alcohol abuse,
    • Diet high in simple carbohydrates, sugar, soda pop and/or juice,
    • Active orthodontic treatment,
    • Exposed root surfaces,
    • Physical or mental disability unable or lacking help for performing good oral health care.

To help decide if you might benefit from fluoride treatment consider these questions:

Are you taking any medications that cause your mouth to become dry? Do you have a disease that causes dry mouth?

Many common medications, especially blood pressure medications, decrease saliva flow and increase the risk for dental decay because saliva helps neutralize the acids in the mouth and washes away food particles that fuel the decay-causing bacteria. Saliva also contains many minerals including fluoride that help keep teeth decay-free.

Have your gums receded so more of your teeth show, or have you been told you have periodontal disease?

As the gums recede more of the teeth are exposed. The root surface is much softer than the chewing surface of teeth. This makes the teeth more susceptible to cavities along the gumline.

Have you needed a filling in the past year?

Decay is started by one specific strain of bacteria: streptococcus mutans. If you have had tooth decay in the past year you are at risk for more because you are in all probability a carrier of the bacteria and have the conditions necessary for the formation of cavities.

Do you have crowned teeth and or bridges?

Crowned teeth are not immune to cavities. The edge where the crown meets the natural tooth structure can provide a hiding place for decay-causing bacteria.

Are you wearing braces or a fixed retainer?

Braces or a fixed retainer can make it difficult to reach all areas of the teeth when brushing and provide niches were food and plaque can hide leading to cavities.

If you have answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you are in a higher risk group and may need a professional fluoride treatment to help prevent tooth decay. This simple preventative treatment is easy to provide to you at any of your dental appointments, and could be of great benefit to your oral health. 

Insurance plans will generally benefit in-office fluoride treatments for children 15 years of age, sometimes to 18 years of age. The coverage varies based on the specific insurance policy. If you are unsure of your policy benefits, contact your insurance company for verification. 

Fluoride helps build strong teeth starting at a young age, but it is a lasting effect throughout life. Appropriate intakes of fluoride can help people protect their teeth from decay and disease, when used with regular dental care and good oral hygiene. 

We will gladly answer any questions you might have. We have also included some website links on our Links page.