Fluoride can help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Here, our dentists at Toothworks Sterling Dental in Ontario explain how topical fluoride treatments work to protect your teeth.
What is fluoride?
Found in all-natural water sources, fluoride is the ionic form of the trace element fluorine, which is commonly found in the environment. Fluorine enters water sources by leaching from rocks and soil into groundwater.
When used as directed by a dentist or within the context of community water fluoridation programs, fluoride is a safe, effective agent that can be used to prevent and control dental cavities (caries).
How is fluoride good for teeth?
Your tooth enamel is continually going through a process of demineralization and remineralization.
During demineralization, minerals such as phosphate, fluoride and calcium are redeposited to the enamel when we drink water or eat certain mineral-rich foods.
When not enough demineralization occurs in our teeth (if you don't consume enough of the required minerals), this can lead to tooth decay.
Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay by making teeth more acid-resistant. In some cases, it can also help to reverse decay in progress.
For children under 6 years old, fluoride is incorporated as permanent teeth develop, making it more difficult for acids to demineralize them.
When is fluoride intake most important?
It is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the timeframe during which the primary and permanent teeth are growing in.
However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. Topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in fighting tooth decay as they are for strengthening developing teeth.
Fluoride Treatment At Your Dentist’s Office
Sometimes, fluoride consumed via water and food is not sufficient to protect the teeth, and in these cases, additional fluoride application is advisable.
While there are many over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes, these contain relatively low levels of fluoride.
Stronger concentrations are available by prescription, and your dentist can also apply fluoride treatment in stronger concentrations at your dental clinic.
Fluoride treatment at your dental clinic will typically be a one-time application of a gel, foam, or varnish solution. Varnishes are painted on the teeth, while foams are put into a dental tray and then applied to the teeth for a few minutes. Gels can either be painted on or applied via a tray.