When used appropriately, fluoride is both safe and effective in preventing and controlling dental cavities. Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally in water and many foods. Fluoride helps the tooth’s outer surface, the enamel, to stay strong and to fight against the acids that cause cavities and tooth decay. Decisions concerning the administration of fluoride are based on the unique needs of each patient, including the risks and benefits.
The AAPD encourages fluoride treatments for children and states that professional fluoride treatments are beneficial and best utilized as part of a comprehensive preventive program developed by your dentist.
Systemic Fluoride vs. Topical Fluoride
Systemic fluoride is fluoride that is ingested into the body through consuming fluoridated water, fluoride supplements or foods and beverages with fluoride. Systemic fluoride enters the blood stream and is distributed throughout the body. It is then deposited into any unerupted and developing teeth. Systemic fluoride is also found in saliva, which continually bathes teeth and provides strength. It is very important for children and adults. However, it does not negate the recommendation for topical fluoride.
Topical fluoride is applied directly to the tooth and is absorbed by the tooth’s enamel layer. Most toothpastes and mouth rinses contain a small amount of fluoride that is a safe and effective concentration to fight cavities. These home care products are rinsed from the mouth and not swallowed.
Professional topical fluoride applications, such as foams or varnishes, are common after your dental cleaning. They are administered by your dentist and are usually left on for a few minutes. These topical fluorides are normally applied right after a cleaning, which can make them more effective because they aren’t being blocked by a layer of bacteria. They are able to reach the “soft” areas or starts of cavities and help re-mineralize them!
Fluoride, Calcium & Phosphate?
Fluoride bonds with the natural tooth minerals of calcium and phosphate and helps build stronger teeth. Cavities are caused by acids and bacteria that remove the calcium and phosphate from the teeth. Fortunately, our saliva contains calcium and phosphate and can re-mineralize or strengthen the teeth. However, if saliva is low in calcium and phosphate, there is a lack of saliva, or you are at high risk for tooth decay, the teeth may not be able to replace the lost calcium and phosphate. Using a recommended fluoride product from your dentist, that also contains calcium and phosphate, can help assure that you are giving your teeth the best chance to fight tooth decay.
Is Fluoride Safe for My Family?
Fluoride is like any other nutrient. When it is used appropriately, it is both safe and effective for the entire family.
Fluoride has been proven to prevent and control decay in both adults and children. Nevertheless, products that contain fluoride should be stored out of the reach of children. When a child is brushing with fluoridated toothpaste or using another product with fluoride, they should always be supervised.
How Do I Know If I'm at High Risk?
You may be at an increased risk for tooth decay if you:
- Have a history of recent or frequent cavities
- Do not floss
- Have gum recession
- Wear braces or other oral appliances
- Have less saliva due to medications, radiation or disease
- Eat frequent meals or snack all day
- Drink acidic and/or sugary drinks
- Have a dental anomaly
- Have a family member with a history of tooth decay
- Sip on acidic and/or sugary drinks and prolong the time they are in your mouth