Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in soil and water. The compound is also contained in various concentrations in foods and beverages. Fluoride treatment is used to help prevent tooth decay by strengthening the enamel. This restorative substance also remineralizes teeth which helps repair early signs of decay before a cavity can develop.
The benefits of fluoride treatment can be achieved in two ways: Topical fluoride and systemic fluoride.
Topical Fluoride Fluoride toothpaste, mouth rinses, and treated floss are types of topical fluoride. It is applied directly to teeth and absorbed into the enamel. Dental hygiene products that contain topical fluoride are not swallowed but rinsed out of the mouth.
Topical fluoride that is applied by a dentist comes in the form of gels, varnishes or foams. This professional fluoride treatment is left on teeth for several minutes, typically during routine cleaning. For cavity-prone patients, a prescription gel or toothpaste may be provided by your dentist for daily use at home.
Systemic Fluoride Systemic fluoride is consumed through supplements, foods, drinks or fluoridated water. Once absorbed through the GI tract, the mineral gets distributed throughout the body, including developing teeth.
Fluoridated water is a form of systemic fluoride. To protect the oral health of a community, water supplies are supplemented with safe levels of fluoride. By drinking fluoridated tap water every day, people reap the benefits of fluoride protection. If bottled water is your beverage of choice, you are missing out.
Children’s teeth absorb fluoride more easily than adult teeth. In young kids, too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis, a harmless condition that causes teeth discoloration and mottled enamel. It is often displayed as white lines or specks, or brown stains on tooth enamel.
Always monitor how much fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, and supplements your youngsters use to be sure they are not consuming too much. Talk to your dentist about how much toothpaste is enough, and the appropriate fluoride supplement dosage.
If you are worried there might be too much fluoride in your tap water, contact the local water department or tap water supplier. If you use a private well, request a thorough content analysis by your local department of health.