Instead of visiting the dentist to face the drill, imagine going in for a quick and painless treatment that helps prevent cavities. Sounds pretty great, right? Ask your dentist for a fluoride treatment for your teeth to help protect and remineralize enamel, helping reduce the likelihood of a cavity. Now that's something to smile about! Learn more about fluoride and how these treatments can benefit you.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps rebuild tooth enamel and reverse early signs of tooth decay. Your body takes in fluoride in two ways: systemically and topically. Systemic fluorides help during tooth development and are swallowed. They are often found in fluoridated water (most tap water) and dietary fluoride supplements. Topical fluoride protects from decay and is applied directly to the teeth via toothpaste, mouth rinses and treatments at the dentist's office.
Benefits of fluoride treatments
A study by John D.B. Featherstone, M.SC., PH.D. in the Journal of the American Dental Association, notes that fluoride helps repair weakened tooth enamel even in adults, by replenishing lost calcium and phosphate — minerals naturally present in saliva. These minerals also make your teeth more resistant to future decay.
Fluoride treatments applied by a dentist are especially good for people with a higher risk for tooth decay or erosion. If you have dry mouth, weak enamel, poor oral health, or if you have a lot of restorations, ask your dentist if applying a fluoride varnish would help protect your teeth.
Fluoride treatments for kids
According to Stanford Children's Health, children can begin getting fluoride treatments at the dentist once their first tooth appears. However, be aware that children under two years old should use a fluoride-free toothpaste. If too much fluoride is ingested as a young child, before the adult teeth have erupted, it can lead to dental fluorosis.
Don't worry; the fluoride varnish applied by the dentist is safe to help prevent tooth decay in children. They only use a small amount of fluoride, and with supervision, hardly any fluoride gets swallowed.
What are fluoride treatments like?
Professional fluoride treatments usually only take a few minutes. The fluoride might come in the form of a gel, foam or varnish. It can be applied with a swab or brush or placed in a tray held in the mouth for a few minutes.
After the treatment is applied, don't eat or drink for at least 30 minutes to allow your teeth to absorb the fluoride and help repair microscopic areas of decay.
Depending on your oral health, your dentist might recommend fluoride treatments every 6–12 months. If you're at a higher risk of developing tooth decay, your dentist might also recommend other preventive measures, such as over-the-counter or prescription fluoride mouth rinses or gels, or an antibacterial mouth rinse.
Ask your dentist about the benefits of fluoride treatments, and keep up your daily dental hygiene regimen. They're both excellent ways to help maintain your strong, healthy smile.