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. 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 may 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.