Dental professionals recommend brushing with fluoride toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. This is especially important for children during their "cavity-prone" years. As an adult, however, there are times when you are at higher risk for tooth decay, and a fluoride rinse may be an appropriate addition to your oral hygiene routine.
What Is Fluoride Mouth Rinse?
Fluoride not only fortifies tooth enamel against acid attacks; it also repairs the early stages of tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site. Available over the counter (OTC) and as a prescription, the most common rinse for daily use is made up of sodium fluoride. Although these formulas are effective and easy to use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that fluoride rinses are intended for people with a high risk of decay. Children under six years old also shouldn't use a fluoride rinse due to the chance of ingestion.
Dry Mouth and Tooth Decay
Saliva is your natural tooth-cleaner in between brushing sessions. It washes food particles off of your teeth and neutralizes decay-causing acids produced by bacteria. So, when you're dehydrated or your mouth becomes parched, you're at a higher risk for tooth decay.
Dry mouth is often caused by medication, and according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), over 400 different kinds of medications can dry your mouth. AIDS, diabetes and Sjögren's syndrome are a few diseases that can also create a lack of saliva. Dry mouth is a common condition for anyone who has experienced a stroke, Alzheimer's disease or chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The AGD estimates that 30 percent of people over the age of 65 deal with dry mouth; using a fluoride rinse can keep your teeth clean during the day, thereby preventing decay and keeping your mouth moist despite any medicine you may have to take regularly.
Gum Disease and Root Decay
Gum disease often serves up double the challenge. When dry mouth makes it hard to thoroughly remove bacteria from your teeth, your gums can accrue plaque, become irritated and bleed easily. But they also begin to recede, according to Western Dental, exposing some of the tooth's root surface. Because this root surface is not as strong as enamel, you are more susceptible to root decay. Gum disease treatment often entails reshaping the gum tissue, which may or may not leave root surfaces partially exposed. So depending on the severity of your recession and whether or not you already have dry mouth, your dentist may recommend multiple forms of fluoride protection – including a fluoride rinse in either an OTC variety or prescription.
Metal braces create a homecare challenge in itself. For orthodontic patients, there are so many places for food and bacteria to hide, and your cavity risk can take a leap. A combination of plaque and sugars can lead to areas of decalcification, which yield visible white spots after your braces are removed. And these spots can eventually turn into full-fledged decay. This is why orthodontists often prescribe a fluoride rinse like Colgate® Phos-Flur® Anti-Cavity Fluoride Rinse to limit decalcification. Formulas like this one are alcohol- and sugar-free to gently reduce white spots by 58 percent.
Fillings, Crowns and Bridges
If you're starting to generate a few cavities after a long hiatus, your dentist may suggest extra protection, and that includes the use of a fluoride rinse even after receiving your filling. Similarly, anyone with extensive dental work needs to know that crowns and bridges offer the perfect hiding spots for bacteria to begin the decay process. With the regular use of fluoride, the process can be stopped before decay even shows, and the tooth can repair itself. Rinses allow you to do this more frequently beyond twice-a-day brushing.
Fluoride mouth rinse can benefit anyone who is especially prone to tooth decay. But remember, it is just one trick in your oral hygiene toolkit.