Fluoride provides excellent natural protection for our teeth. But sometimes mother nature needs a little help. Fluoride toothpaste is one of the best ways to get the cavity-fighting minerals your teeth need. Fluoride treatments at your dentist’s office are another terrific way to get extra protection. While these treatments are a regular part of kids’ checkups, they can also benefit adult patients at high risk of tooth decay.
What Is Fluoride And How Does It Help My Teeth?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens and protects our tooth enamel. Bacteria produce acid that causes tooth decay, and that acid removes minerals from your enamel. Fluoride replaces those minerals, fighting cavities and stopping the tooth decay process. According to the Centers for Disease Control, getting enough fluoride means fewer cavities, less severe tooth decay, and fewer fillings and extractions.
Where Does Fluoride Come From?
We get fluoride from the foods we eat and the water we drink. But most of us need to supplement those natural sources. Many communities add fluoride to public drinking water in small, safe amounts. Some private well water also contains fluoride naturally thanks to minerals in the ground. Certain foods are rich in fluoride, including spinach, potatoes, grapes and raisins, and some seafood. There are also some surprising sources of fluoride in our diets. Fruit juices and soft drinks contain fluoride, but they also have high levels of sugar. For adults, wine, coffee, and tea are also high in fluoride, but they can stain the teeth. For all of these beverages, moderation is key. We can supplement the fluoride we consume naturally by using fluoride toothpaste, which dentists recommend for everyone over the age of 2. Fluoride mouth rinses can also help older children and adults. And one of the best ways to protect your teeth is with preventive fluoride treatments in your dentist’s office.
Is Too Much Fluoride A Concern?
When young children get too much fluoride, it can cause dental fluorosis. Fluorosis can damage tooth enamel and cause discoloration. For most doctors and dentists, the benefits of fluoride in drinking water far outweigh the risks. But fluorosis is something to watch out for, another reason regular dental checkups are essential.
Who Needs Fluoride Treatments?
Both adults and children need fluoride to keep their teeth healthy. Concentrated fluoride treatments applied at the dentist’s office as a gel, foam or varnish can provide extra protection. But while in-office fluoride treatments are common during children’s dental checkups, they aren’t always offered at adult visits. However, adults at higher risk of tooth decay can also benefit from fluoride treatments. According to the American Dental Association, adults and children with the following conditions can benefit from in-office fluoride treatments:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Active cavities
- Eating disorders
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Orthodontic treatment
- Dry mouth/decreased salivary flow
- Poor diet
- Tooth enamel defects
Does My Toothpaste Need To Contain Fluoride?
The bottom line is that toothpaste must contain fluoride to be effective at preventing cavities. All kinds of toothpaste approved by the ADA contain fluoride. Children over the age of 2 should use fluoride toothpaste with parental supervision. Your dentist may recommend an over-the-counter fluoride mouth rinse in addition to brushing and flossing if you’re getting orthodontic treatment or have other risk factors. At Hall Family Dentistry, prevention and fostering good habits are always a focus. We know the most important steps patients can take are excellent oral hygiene and sticking with checkups every six months, including fluoride treatments when appropriate. There’s nothing we love more than giving a “no cavities” report. And we love being a part of making it happen for patients of all ages.