The Benefits of Fluoride

The Benefits of Fluoride

Matthew Norman, DDS and Michelle Phillips, RDH



Fluoride is a naturally-occurring substance which has important uses in dentistry, such as preventing tooth decay and treating tooth sensitivity.  Fluoride is commonly found in most toothpastes and some mouthwashes on the market today.  Fluoride is available in prescription-strength forms for application in the dental office, over-the-counter products for use at home, and is found in most public/municipal drinking water systems in the United States.  In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the fluoridation of water to be one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.


Fluoride comes in two basic forms: topical and systemic.  Topical fluoride is simply a fluoride that is applied directly to the teeth currently in your mouth.  It helps make these teeth more cavity-resistant.  Systemic fluoride is a fluoride that is ingested and helps the developing teeth (teeth have yet to erupt in the mouth and are totally under the gums).  Systemic fluoride exposure is very important and beneficial for children aged 6 months up to 16 years old, as tooth development is occurring during this time.

  • Your toothpaste, mouthwash, dental office applications are all topical. 
    • Most toothpastes and mouthwashes contain minimal amounts of topical fluoride.
    • Dental office applications are significantly stronger and contain much more fluoride, designed to last longer. Fluoride Varnish application Most dental offices may use a fluoride rinse, gel, foam, or varnish.  Norman Dental uses a fluoride varnish.  Studies have shown that the varnish has much more fluoride uptake than any other professional delivery method.


  • Prescription tablets/drops and drinking water are examples of systemic fluorides.
    • If you have private-well water and your child isn’t exposed to a regular fluoride source, your Dentist maySodium Fluoride Tablet recommend a prescription fluoride supplement.  These generally come in a liquid form, or chewable tablets, designed for children.   It’s best to have your water tested to see the fluoridation levels present in your water, to determine if supplemental fluoride is necessary.
    • Municipal/city water also contains fluoride.  Although this delivery method is considered systemic, it still has topical benefits because the fluoride is present in the water that contacts your teeth and saliva.  Water fluoridation is extremely inexpensive and effective in the prevention of tooth decay.


Fluoride is very beneficial when used appropriately.  Over the past several decades with fluoride being more prevalent, especially with the advent of the fluoridation of drinking water supplies, a significant decline in tooth decay rates has been observed.  If you have any concerns or questions about the uses of fluoride or if you think your child needs to be supplemented, please let us know the next time you’re in our office.

Dry Mouth and its Effects on the Oral Environment

Dry Mouth and its Effects on the Oral Environment

Matthew Norman, DDS and Michelle Phillips, RDH

Xerostomia is the dental term for dry mouth.  One out of every four adults suffers from some form of dry mouth.  Several factors can contribute to the presence of dry mouth such as: diabetes, anxiety, alcohol consumption, trauma to a salivary gland/duct, radiation/chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and medications.  Medications are the most common cause of dry mouth—both prescription and over-the-counter.  The more medications that a person is taking, the higher the risk that individual is to have diminished salivary flow and a dry mouth.

Saliva performs many functions.  Not only does saliva help to moisten the tissues in your mouth, but it also helps keep your mouth and teeth healthy and clean.  There are certain enzymes present in your saliva that help to digest food and plaque that adhere to your teeth after eating. If the salivary flow in your mouth is diminished, plaque and food sticks to your teeth more resiliently which increases the chance of having tooth decay or cavities.  Dry mouth can also lead to mouth infections, bad breath and periodontal (gum) disease.  Someone suffering from dry mouth may have gum tissue that appears red, a “cracked-looking” or red tongue.  The tongue can even appear shiny from the dryness.  Dry mouth has also been linked to an overall burning sensation in a person’s mouth.

Currently, there is no treatment available to directly increase someone’s salivary flow or the amount of saliva one produces, but salivary substitutes do exist.  One “over-the-counter” option available is a salivary substitute called Biotene.  Biotene comes in several forms—a mouthwash, toothpaste, moisturizing gels and even a chewing gum.  The Biotene products help to lubricate and protect your mouth just as your own saliva would.  Incorporating these salivary substitutes into your daily oral hygiene regime can improve your oral health and comfort while decreasing the risk of tooth decay caused by diminished salivary flow.

Another option for defense from the effects of xerostomia is fluoride.  Fluoride helps strengthen the outer layer of the tooth to prevent tooth decay.  As mentioned earlier, plaque and food can more easily stick to teeth in a dry mouth, attacking the minerals in the enamel to cause cavities.  Fluoride mouthrinses, such as ACT, helps to counteract this process and strengthen the teeth.

Whether you have a dry mouth or not, brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, flossing once a day and visiting your Dentist on a regular basis (at least twice a year), is your best defense against tooth decay and gum disease!

Stop the Confusion with Over-the-Counter Products

Stop the Confusion with Over-the-Counter Products

Dr. Matthew Norman and Michelle Phillips, RDH


There are several over-the-counter products that aid in excellent oral health.  The “Oral Care” aisle in your drug store can be very overwhelming with all the different brands and products available.  Hopefully these tips will help you better decide on everything from toothbrushes and toothpastes, to fluoride, chewing gum and rinses.


Choosing the best toothbrush is a simple decision, the toothbrush needs to fit your mouth!    You never want to get a toothbrush too large for your mouth.  If you have a smaller mouth, some adult brushes may be too large and a youth brush may be more comfortable.  Also, you want to make sure the bristles are extra-soft or soft.  Brushes with stiffer bristles can cause damage to your gums and cause them to recede over time.  When using a worn-out toothbrush (the toothbrush starts to look “frayed”), the inner bristles are the ones cleaning your teeth.  The inner bristles tend to be stiffer and can therefore cause damage to your gums.  Pay attention to the handle too…you want to make sure it’s going to be comfortable to hold.  Those with arthritis, or any other problem with grasping, may want to choose a toothbrush with a larger handle.


It is easy become overwhelmed with the variety of toothpastes available today.  When choosing a toothpaste, the most important consideration is whether or not it contains fluoride.  Most toothpastes contain fluoride to aid in cavity prevention.  Other oral health issues to consider when selecting a toothpaste include:

  • Gingivitis: If you have, or at a higher risk of developing gingivitis, Colgate Total is the only toothpaste on the market that is approved by the FDA to prevent gingivitis.  Colgate Total contains the ingredient triclosan, which is an antibacterial and antifungal agent.
  • Stain: If you are prone to collecting stain from coffee, tea or red wine, whitening toothpaste may be beneficial.  These types of toothpaste tend to be a little more abrasive to help remove stains.  Crest and Colgate both have several variations of whitening toothpastes.
  • Sensitivity: For those with gum recession and/or tooth sensitivity, a toothpaste containing concentrated amounts of fluoride will be beneficial to help desensitize the exposed root surfaces. Crest and Colgate both have sensitivity-countering toothpastes.  Sensodyne is highly-recommended sensitivity toothpaste.


Fluoride provides three very important benefits to your teeth: remineralization of the teeth, resistance to tooth decay and it slows down the formation of acids that cause tooth decay.  Fluoride can actually remineralize or repair the enamel (the outermost layer of a tooth).  When you get a cavity that must be filled, the decay must pass through the enamel into the inner layer of a tooth (the dentin).  If a cavity has just started (as often seen on routine bitewing x-rays) and is still contained in the enamel, the area can remineralize.  Excellent oral hygiene and regular fluoride exposure is necessary for this process to occur, but this hard work can prevent a filling!  Fluoride can be found in most toothpastes and several over-the-counter rinses.  Most dental offices have prescription-strength fluoride toothpastes, like Prevident, that can be dispensed to those who are at a higher risk of developing cavities. 


Most of the sugar-free chewing gum on the market contains xylitol, which has been proven to help prevent cavities.  A cavity is formed when sugars are introduced to an acidic environment—plaque on your teeth is acidic and when sugars are presented, it begins the demineralization process.  Xylitol is a natural sweetener that doesn’t break down like sugar, and helps keep a neutral pH in your mouth.  It also helps prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth.  Several mints also contain xylitol.


Dental rinses can be beneficial to achieving optimal oral health.  The main thing to look for when choosing a rinse is to find one without alcohol.  Alcohol dries out the tissue in your mouth and can sometimes cause pain.  Dry mouth also causes a person to be more susceptible to tooth decay. 

  • Everyday Rinses:  Scope and Crest Pro-Health are two great rinses that do not contain alcohol for someone looking for an everyday rinse to help freshen breath.  Listerine also has an alcohol-free rinse available, Listerine Zero.
  • Dry Mouth Rinses:  If you take medications that tend to make your mouth dry,  Biotene is a great daily rinse to use.  Biotene helps re-moisten and lubricate your mouth.
  • Fluoride Rinses:  For someone that has poor oral hygiene or is prone to cavities,a fluoride rinse may be indicated.  Act Mouthrinse and Colgate’s Phos-Flur are available in most drug stores and are great rinses to use on a daily basis. These rinses should be used right before bed, after brushing and flossing, and should not be rinsed out afterwards.


Don’t get intimidated or overwhelmed when standing down the “Oral Care” aisle now that you’re educated on the different products; just choose what works best for you!