Fluoride: The Tooth Toughener, Anti-Sensitivity and Antibacterial Agent
Everyone knows the effectiveness of fluoride in preventing tooth decay. They also work to reduce root sensitivity and have a role in the prevention of periodontal disease as well.
How does it work?
Sugars in the mouth set up a favorable environment for the growth and development of germs. These germs produce acids that cause decay and leave behind deposits that injure the gums. One of the big defenses against this process is fluoride which builds up the resistance of teeth to these acids and the attachment of bacteria. (Technically, the fluoride ion replaces the hydroxyl (OH) ion and converts the tooth surface from hydroxyapatite to fluorapatite.)
It should be in your child’s drinking water so it can be absorbed in his growing teeth; it should also be in your child’s toothpaste and regularly applied on his teeth by the family dentist.
Communities that fluoridate their water supply report that tooth decay has been cut in half among its school children. They credit fluoride for this improvement. As an added plus, parents are saving millions of dollars a year in dental bills.
In areas where the water is not fluoridated, children’s teeth can be substantially protected against cavities by fluoride in drop or tablet form.
For over half a century, the oral healthcare benefits of fluoride have been accepted without question. Unfortunately, most people assume that the fluoride they get from their toothpaste and tap water is adequate for their needs. This is not always the case.
Children and Cavities
Children often get cavities due to poor home care habits. They forget to brush after breakfast or before bed and when they do brush, they rarely clean plaque from all tooth surfaces. Rarely will children floss effectively. Children wearing orthodontic appliances like braces face an additional burden to keeping their tooth surfaces cavity-free. Fortunately, the extra protection offered by fluoride treatments can counter these threats and reduce the risk of a child developing cavities.
Controlling Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity to both hot and cold affects 25% of all adults at one time or another. Often, such sensitivity is due to receding gums, which expose the formerly protected root surface. Sensitivity will also sometimes occur following root planing, scaling, or other gum treatment procedures.
Fortunately, relief from sensitivity can be just a visit to your dentist away. Many products have been developed to control sensitivity. Some provide pain relief while doing nothing to protect exposed areas from cavity development. Fluoride-based products are usually preferred because they also protect from cavities.
Adults and Cavities
Fluorides are, of course, beneficial for children, but many adults also suffer from problems for which fluoride may also be the answer. A recent National Institute of Dental Research survey reported that adults had an average of 23 decayed and filled tooth surfaces. Recurrent or secondary decay around fillings represents a major dental problem. Studies find that 40-50% of total adult fillings are done to replace existing fillings.
As we grow older, many of us suffer from gum recession. This means root surfaces become exposed. The incidence of root caries in the adult population is steadily increasing.
Fluoride treatments can be the answer for you. Research shows that properly applied fluoride blocks cavities by forming a more acid-resistant surface layer. It can even reverse and remineralize early forming cavities (white spots).
How Do I Find Out More?
If you are concerned that you may be at risk and think fluoride treatment might help, ask your dentist or hygienist. If they believe fluoride will benefit you, they have a wide variety of fluoride treatment options to help you; some performed by your dental team at their office and others are done by you at home. Trust your dental professional to recommend the most appropriate treatment for your specific needs.