Fluoride has been scientifically proven to help reduce tooth decay in both children and adults. Fluoride, as we know it, is derived from the element “fluorine” which is one of the 20 most common elements found on earth.
So how does fluoride fight cavities? Well, when you eat different foods, the acids that are produced from those foods can cause the enamel on your teeth to wear down. When the naturally-occurring calcium and phosphate in your tooth enamel is stripped away by these acids, your teeth are susceptible to decay and cavities.
The saliva in your mouth disrupts these attacks on your teeth by washing away the acid and adding back in the calcium and phosphate. When you have fluoride in the fight, your enamel can be restored and create a powerful defense system against cavities.
The bottom line is, our teeth need fluoride in order to combat tooth decay. How we obtain fluoride can happen in a few different ways.
Systemic Fluoride is the process of adding fluoride to community water sources, also known as water fluoridation. While fluoride is naturally found in all water sources, water fluoridation is where the water source is adjusting to ensure that the recommended level of fluoride is present for optimal dental health. (0.7 parts fluoride per million parts water, according to the American Dental Association).
Some water sources, for example well water, may not contain the recommended levels of fluoride to achieve maximum protection against decay and cavities. You can have water sources tested by the local health department.
It is also important to note that some home water treatment systems like distillation or reverse osmosis can reduce fluoride levels. Typically carbon or charcoal filtration systems will not remove fluoride. It is important to find out if a reduction in fluoride is happening when you install any kind of water filtration system. A reduction in fluoride from community water sources can mean you are missing out on the cavity-fighting properties of that fluoride.
Dietary fluoride supplements are available, but must be prescribed by your dentist or physician. These supplements are typically geared toward children who are at high risk for tooth decay and whose primary drinking water has a low fluoride concentration.
You can learn the history of how fluoride became part of community water by reading our blog from last fall.
Self-Applied Topical Fluoride
Topical fluoride are other sources of fluoride that are applied directly onto the tooth through toothpaste, mouthrinse or gels.
Fluoridated toothpaste is the most common form of self-applied fluoride in the world. When you brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, your enamel is able to directly absorb it. This increases the strength of your enamel and its ability to fight cavities caused by acid from food. Brushing with fluoridated toothpastes will also increase the concentration of fluoride in your saliva. Saliva is another critical part of the fight against cavities.
Fluoridated mouthrinses work the same way as toothpaste, and have the same impact on improving the health of your teeth. Self-applied gel formulations of sodium fluoride (the fluoride most commonly found in mouthrinse) are another options, but generally must be prescribed by your dentist or doctor.
Professionally-Applied Topical Fluoride
If your dentist determines that a more concentrated dose of fluoride is necessary to fight cavities, they may recommend a fluoride treatment be done in the dental office. They are more concentrated than the self-applied options and application is not as frequent.
There are different options for these professionally-applied fluoride treatments, including foams, gels, varnishes or rinses. Your dentist, like the pediatric dentists at Smile Surfers, will talk to you about their recommendation for the best option for your child.
Silver Diamine Fluoride is another option for professionally-applied fluoride. It include silvers in the fluoride treatment that penetrates into the surface of the enamel and acts as an anti-microbial agent. This is a non-invasive options for patients who may already have tooth decay and are looking for alternative methods to tooth restoration. You can learn more about silver diamine fluoride treatments by clicking here.
Smile Surfers Pediatric Dentists
If you have any questions about the different options for achieving the recommended levels of fluoridation, please talk to our board-certified pediatric dentists at Smile Surfers. Two locations to serve you:
Richland: (509) 946-9999 www.Richland.SmileSurfers.com
Sumner: (253) 833-5137 www.Sumner.SmileSurfers.com