Fluoride | For All Ages
For children, as well as adults, fluoride, a mineral found in the earth’s crust, has been shown to be both nature’s fighter against tooth decay, as well as nature’s restorer. After a lengthy study some years ago, research scientists determined that this almost magical mineral could help in the formation of healthy teeth, before they’ve erupted, while also aiding in strengthening the enamel in erupted teeth.
Why is fluoride so important?
Though the enamel of our teeth is strong, allowing us to bite into foods and chew in comfort, it is not impervious to damage. And not all damage is a result of trauma. Enamel also covers the tooth’s inner structures, which are softer and more susceptible to disease. Two minerals – calcium and phosphorus – found in the enamel, are critical components of this structure to provide strength. One tool, in order to keep enamel healthy, twice-a-day brushing and flossing, is well known. However, even with a good dental hygiene routine, there are other forces that can work against the health of our enamel. One such negative force can be diet; if it’s high in sugary foods or there is continual consumption of sweetened drinks, problems arise. An increase in the amount of sticky plaque that adheres to the tooth’s surface and damaging acids can result in the leaching out of the these important minerals. The result? Weakening the tooth’s enamel. Fluoride can both neutralize acids while it also helps to replace these missing minerals.
Who benefits from fluoride?
Everyone! Even though it was originally thought that young children should not use products containing fluoride, so important are the benefits to teeth that this opinion has changed. While parents should monitor use of fluoride toothpastes, it has been added as an important component in a parent’s toolbox to care of their children’s teeth. And for parents of young children through teen years, and sometimes into adulthood, fluoride varnishes, in conjunction with sealants on posterior teeth, help place a barrier against plaque, greatly reducing the incidents of decay in our youth.
And, it is important to note that the benefits of fluoride continue throughout our lifetime. The need to protect enamel from the bacteria, ever present in the oral cavity, and the ‘plaque attacks’ from foods, doesn’t diminish over time. Saliva, naturally produced by the body, helps bathe the teeth, reducing the amount of plaque that adheres to the tooth’s surface. However, as we age, or as a side effect of some medications, saliva production can decrease, causing dry mouth. The addition of fluoride is often recommended to mitigate potential damage when an insufficient amount of saliva is present. Also, when one’s mouth is chronically dry, the gums can recede and expose the tooth’s sensitive roots and place them at risk. Fluoride not only strengthens the enamel, but it also helps protect these exposed surfaces by reducing and neutralizing the presence of acids in the mouth.
How do we protect our teeth with fluoride?
There are two ways that we expose our teeth to fluoride – either ingestion, mostly by drinking fluoridated water, or topically. For young children, especially under the age of six, topical fluoride should be used after consultation with Drs. Hochberg and Diora. Ingestion of too much fluoride by our young ones can cause decalcification of the teeth.
However, for all populations, appropriate use of fluoride is essential to optimize oral health. While drinking fluoridated water is an inexpensive and excellent way to intake fluoride, with the popularity of bottled water, many do not consume sufficient amounts to be beneficial.
For this group there are products that contain fluoride. Toothpastes, approved by the American Dental Association that show fluoride as an ingredient are readily available. And, in some instances, our dentists will recommend a fluoride rinse to adults and older children, if needed. And, for children, when brushing and flossing has not yet been perfected, getting into those hard to reach back areas is challenging. When there are grooves in the posterior teeth, many times sealants are recommended. To enhance the protection of the chewing surfaces, a topical varnish with fluoride, typically twice a year, helps their new teeth stay healthier and decay free.
Fluoride is important for everyone!
Whether you are pregnant and on the road to having a child or a member of our adult patient population, at Colony Square Dental Associates, we are here to work with you in order to maintain excellent oral health for you and your family. Twice a day brushing and flossing, professional dental hygiene visits, and a healthy diet all help. And, by adding one more tool to your toolbox, fluoride, we will keep you smiling.