Did you know that your teeth have a built-in defense system to help protect them from cavities and tooth decay? It’s called enamel and it forms a hard, protective shell over the surface of your teeth. However, bacteria can eat away at tooth enamel if you don’t properly clean and take care of your mouth. Dentists recommend receiving regular fluoride treatments to help strengthen your enamel and reverse the effects of tooth decay. Fluoride treatments can also help children develop strong, healthy teeth for years to come.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that can be found naturally in food and water. Fluoride treatments help strengthen tooth enamel and repair any holes in it by replacing the nutrients that are lost over time. After your teeth have been exposed to fluoride, they tend to become more resistant to acid, making it less likely that they will decay in the future.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
Fluoride’s primary benefit is that it helps prevent tooth decay. It can also reverse erosion that has already taken place. If plaque forms on the teeth and eats away at the enamel, fluoride treatments can replace the minerals in the enamel that have eroded. This allows teeth to remain healthy.
Fluoride treatments are especially important for children under the age of six. Even though these young children don’t have their permanent teeth yet, fluoride treatments can prevent bacteria build-up around the gums, fight gingivitis, and help establish long-term dental health.
Fluoride treatments are even more important if you require special oral care. Anyone who wears braces should receive fluoride treatments regularly to prevent bacteria from getting trapped underneath the wires. People who are undergoing radiation for cancer in the head or neck should also make it a priority to have fluoride treatments since radiation can damage glands in the mouth that produce saliva. Saliva is necessary to neutralize the harmful acids that are released as we chew and it stops food particles from making direct contact with your teeth. The less saliva you have in your mouth, the more susceptible you are to tooth decay.
Types of fluoride supplements
There are several ways to increase the amount of fluoride in your system. One of the most common ways is to use toothpaste that is enriched with fluoride.
You can also buy fluoride gels to use at home. Apply the gel directly to your mouth and let it sit for several minutes, then rinse out your mouth with water. You should avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after you apply this gel. Some gels are available over-the-counter and are typically meant to be used in conjunction with fluoride toothpaste. If you need a stronger dose of fluoride, your dentist will be able to prescribe a gel for you.
Finally, your dentist may provide a fluoride treatment during a routine checkup. During the treatment, your dentist will fill a mouth guard with flavored fluoride. For the fluoride to properly stick to your teeth, you should wear the mouth guard for up to four minutes. Then your dentist will remove the guard and rinse out your mouth. Some dentists also use a varnish or foam, which they paint directly onto your teeth. You should avoid eating, drinking or smoking for 30 minutes after the treatment.
Fluoride therapy for children
Although fluoride is highly beneficial for children, it also has certain risks. Dentists give fluoride treatments to children to aid with the development of healthy permanent teeth and to lower the risk of tooth decay. However, if children are exposed to too much fluoride, it can cause a condition called fluorosis. Fluorosis causes teeth to become brown and can actually cause tooth decay.
Children should use fluoridated toothpaste at home twice a day. However, parents need to monitor their children’s brushing to ensure that they do not use too much toothpaste. Children over the age of two should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. This is especially important when dealing with young children because they tend to swallow toothpaste instead of spitting it out. Children under the age of two should not brush their teeth by themselves. As their parent, you should use a soft bristle brush to apply fluoridated toothpaste to their teeth and help them rinse out their mouth.
In some cases, dentists may also prescribe fluoride supplements for children. Dentists usually only prescribe supplements to children who have a high risk of tooth decay, including children who eat a lot of sugary foods or children who don’t get enough nutritional fluoride in their diet. Fluoride supplements are used sparingly in children because of the risk of overdose. If your child needs fluoride supplements, make sure to keep the supplements out of his or her reach and follow all directions provided by your child’s dentist.
Many recent studies have demonstrated that when used correctly, fluoride treatments greatly help reduce the risk of tooth decay, especially in young children. It’s important to make sure your teeth get enough fluoride so that you won’t get cavities. Most adults can take care of their teeth by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. If you are concerned about whether you’re getting enough fluoride, talk to your dentist about supplements. Your dentist will let you know if they are necessary and prescribe the proper dosage.
Content courtesy humana.com