Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in food and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride are well known and supported by most health professionals.
Your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth
- Exposed and sensitive root surfaces
- Gum disease
- Dry mouth conditions
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides
- Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications
- Recent history of dental decay
There are two types of fluoride:
Topical fluoride is probably the most important source of prevention of tooth decay. Topical fluoride reaches the teeth directly. It inhibits the metabolism of the decay-producing bacteria in plaque and stabilizes minerals in the teeth, thus preventing or slowing down the caries process. Topical fluoride is most effective when delivered at very low doses many times a day through water, foods containing fluoride, and fluoridated toothpaste. Dentists and dental hygienists generally recommend that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.
Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. All infants and children who drink fluoridated water benefit from systemic ingestion by incorporating fluoride into their developing teeth, as well as from important topical effects. It is also available as a supplement and can be prescribed by your dentist. However, It is important to note that if too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.