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How much can fluoride help vulnerable adults?

Fluoride is one of the dentist’s most powerful weapons in the fight against tooth decay. It is highly effective in patients of all ages and even helps repair the early stages of decay before it becomes visible.

Now fluoride is getting renewed focus for its potential to have a positive impact on the oral health of vulnerable adults.

Too many older adults, including 76 million baby boomers, are retaining more teeth than ever, but vulnerable adults—including racial and ethnic minorities, the poor and people with less education—tend to suffer with higher rates of tooth decay
Researchers at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine are teaming up with the Department of Veterans Affairs Oral Health Quality Group to find out how fluoride can fight tooth decay in high-risk adults. Their study is using five years of data on approximately 1.7 million patients in the VA system and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.

The goals are to:

  • study the effectiveness of prescription-strength fluoride, both self- and professionally-applied, in the prevention of new restorations in veterans at high risk. Researchers think veterans who receive fluoride treatments will have fewer new restorations and fewer surfaces restored than veterans without fluoride treatments;
  • look at whether multiple exposures to fluoride are more effective than single exposures;
  • find out if the VA’s quarterly report on the number of at-risk veterans who received recommended fluoride treatments resulted in fewer restorations.
    “Our previous research significantly changed VA policy by increasing the availability of prescription-strength fluorides for our nation’s veterans,” said Dr. Judith Jones, principal investigator and chair of general dentistry at the Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “This new grant will show us how increased fluoride use affects dental caries in adults.”

For good oral hygiene, the American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
Your dentist may recommend additional fluoride treatments as well. No matter how you get the fluoride you need—whether it be through your drinking water, supplements, toothpaste, mouthrinse or professionally applied fluoride. —you can be confident that it’s working to fight decay.

For more information, visit

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