Fluoride is a natural mineral that is found in many foods and in drinking water in many locations. For over sixty years, dentists and dental research scientists around the world over have accepted the oral health benefits of fluoride. In addition, most of our patients assume that the amounts of fluoride they get in their tap water and toothpaste is adequate. But this isn’t always the case. In fact, fluoride treatments may be the answer to a wide variety of dental health conditions.
For example, may adults suffering from recurring or secondary decay around existing fillings. Properly applied fluoride can block these cavities by creating a more acid-resistant outer surface layer and can even reverse early forming dental cavities.
Dental researchers have shown that just introducing fluoride into a (previously un-fluoridated) city’s drinking water supply can reduce its inhabitants’ rate of tooth decay between 40 and 70 percent. By the time your children reach the age of six, your dentist should be working on a strategy to prevent tooth decay that includes regular checkups, appropriate fluoride use, fluoride-releasing dental sealants, and proper brushing and flossing techniques.
Fluoride varnishes are products that are recommended in treatment of dental tooth sensitivity, usually due to receding gums, and have the added benefit of proving extra protection from cavities. A dentist applies the fluoride varnish on expose root surfaces. Fluoride works by blocking the nerve endings on these exposed root surfaces and thus, alleviates the sensitivity in these areas.
Fluoride also helps inhibit bleeding and tender gums in early gum disease, thus helping to control the disease in the early stages. Fluoride can also help prevent re-infection and sustain ongoing treatments in cases of advanced gum disease.
For those patients with dental implants and dentures, fluoride can play an important role in preventing early implant deterioration by preventing plaque build-up, and in controlling bad breath and irritation from dentures.
Fluoride is not without disadvantages. Excessive fluoride ingestion by preschool-aged children in the form of toothpaste can lead to dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is the discoloration and, in advanced cases, the pitting of the adult teeth. Dental fluorosis generally presents as a mild or very mild mottling of teeth when high levels of fluoride have been taken in while tooth enamel is forming. Dentists recommend the use of non-fluoridated children’s toothpaste for young children to prevent dental fluorosis.