Fluoride is important to the healthy development of children’s teeth. Here, our Langley dentists explain why and when fluoride treatment is necessary.
What is fluoride, exactly?
Fluoride is a mineral. It occurs naturally in many foods, as well as in certain water sources. It is also found throughout the Earth’s crust, and in general is widely distributed in nature.
In the 1930s, researchers noted that people who grew up drinking water that was naturally fluoridated had up to two thirds fewer cavities than those who grew up drinking water that was not fluoridated.
As a result of these findings, these days fluoride is often added to water supplies in many places to help strengthen the teeth of the population and keep the community healthier.
How does fluoride work?
Fluoride prevent cavities in two ways:
- Concentrations of it build up in the growing bones and teeth of children, hardening the enamel of baby and adult teeth before the erupt.
- It hardens the enamel of adult teeth that have already erupted as well.
Fluoride does its work during the demineralization and remineralization process that takes place inside your mouth when you eat. After you finish eating, your saliva contains acids that cause “demineralization”. Demineralization is a dissolution of the calcium and phosphorous under the surface of the teeth.
At other times, when your saliva is less acidic, it has the opposite effect, and actually replenishes the calcium and phosphorous (remineralization).
This is when fluoride comes into play. When fluoride is present during the remineralization process, the minerals that are deposited are harder than they would be if it wasn't there. This helps make teeth stronger and more resistant to the effects of demineralization during the next phase.
How do I know if I’m getting enough fluoride?
To find out of you and your family are getting enough fluoride, you can contact your local water district to ask whether your community water is fluoridated.
If it is, then just drinking the water and brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste will probably be sufficient for children and adults with healthy teeth.
If your water is not fluoridated (or doesn’t have enough fluoride), your dentist may recommend fluoride treatment.
Whether or not your water is fluoridated, let your dentist know, and she will help you determine whether additional fluoride treatment would be right for your family.
What kinds of fluoride treatments are available?
You dentist will be able to recommend appropriate fluoride treatment (if any), depending on your needs. She may recommend any of the following:
- Mouth Rinses & Toothpastes: low fluoride concentration formulas are available for purchase at most pharmacies. Higher concentrations are available via prescription by your dentist.
- In-Office Gel, Varnish or Foam Treatments: These treatments contain a higher concentration of fluoride than what is found in rinses or toothpastes. They are applied at your dentist’s office by a qualified dental professional.
- Fluoride Supplements: Fluoride supplements are available in tablet or liquid format, by prescription only.
When is fluoride intake most beneficial?
Fluoride intake is generally considered essential for the healthy oral development of children from infancy to the age of 16, because this is when the baby and adult teeth are developing and erupting.
However, adult teeth can also benefit from fluoride treatment, so no matter how old you are, be sure to discuss fluoride intake with your dentist!