When you visit your dental clinic, you will often be asked questions about the frequency with which you brush your teeth and whether or not you floss regularly. These are general dental care routines that your dentist will expect you to know and understand.
However, there are other aspects of dental care that you might not be so familiar with. Case in point, fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps you strengthen your teeth and prevent existing damage from worsening.
To help you take care of your pearly whites, we’re going to take an in depth look at this particular mineral. We will discuss how fluoride helps your teeth, the different ways to provide fluoride treatment as well as a few cautionary points.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in the food and water that we consume. Due to its beneficial properties, it is also used as an additive in various toothpaste and mouthwash products.
To understand fluoride, it’s important to look at some of the dangers that our teeth face. One of these dangers is demineralisation. Demineralisation is when bacteria, sugars and plaque begin attacking the enamel layer (the outer coating) of our teeth. If this process is allowed to continue, it will eventually result in tooth decay.
Fluoride, along with other minerals such as calcium and phosphate, can help with remineralisation. This process protects the enamel layer from acid attacks and even reverses minor tooth decay.
Fluoride primarily helps children develop healthy permanent teeth, but it also helps adults avoid further tooth decay.
Unfortunately, due to a medical condition and/or a poor diet, some individuals do not have enough healthy minerals to protect their teeth. As a result, it’s necessary to provide fluoride treatment. This can be done in a number of ways.
There are plenty of fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash products. To protect your teeth, you can simply incorporate these items to your daily dental care routine. These products contain low-levels of fluoride and generally have no side-effects.
If you require higher levels of fluoride, you will have to consult your dentist for prescribed treatments. This usually comes in the form of gels, foam or varnish. As you would expect, gels and varnish are often applied onto the teeth with a brush. Meanwhile, foams are applied via a mouth-guard. Additionally, you can ask your GP or dentist about prescribable liquids and tablets that can improve remineralization.
Benefits of fluoride treatment
When your teeth are exposed to fluoride, it speeds up the process of remineralisation. This allows calcium and phosphate to provide protection against acidic substances. It also repairs the weak parts of the enamel, preventing tooth decay from developing further.
Fluoride is an essential mineral in tooth development. As a new tooth erupts, fluoride will strengthen its enamel, preventing cavities and protecting the tooth from the demineralisation for the rest of its lifespan.
As a by-product, fluoride treatment can also help prevent gum diseases, tooth pain and premature tooth loss.
Who can benefit from fluoride treatment?
Fluoride is extremely helpful when it comes to new and developing teeth in children. Children above six months of age should be exposed to the appropriate amount of fluoride. For adults, fluoride exposure, whether it occurs topically (applied on the surface) or systematically (through diet), can help prevent major tooth decay.
Additionally, fluoride treatment can help individuals suffering from a dry mouth, gum disease or cavities. Through fluoride exposure, one can mitigate the symptoms of these conditions. Keep in mind that these problems are often brought on by drug use, poor oral hygiene and/or poor diet. For the best results, consider improving these aspects of your daily life in conjunction with fluoride treatment.
Fluoridated off-the-shelf products are generally safe to use. The amount of fluoride in water, toothpaste and mouthwashes is so low that it’s unlikely to have any unwanted side effects. One the other hand, fluoride treatments that involve higher levels of fluoride are often done under the supervision of medical professionals. They will ensure that you don’t expose yourself to an excessive amount of the mineral.
That being said, it won’t hurt to understand the potential risks of too much fluoride. The possible side effects include:
- Fluorosis (discolouration of the teeth)
- Toxicity at high levels causing nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and/or fatigue
- Triggering skin allergies and irritations
- Issues with bone homeostasis
- Dense bones with little strength
Children are particularly vulnerable to the side effects of fluoride. As a result, make sure to supervise them when they are brushing their teeth. Make that they are using the right amount of fluoridated toothpaste (pea-sized) and make sure that they don’t swallow too much of it. Additionally, if you store fluoride supplement tablets or liquids, ensure that it’s not easily accessible by children. That was just a general overview of fluoride and fluoride treatment. If you feel that you can benefit from it, make sure to consult your general practitioner or your dentist. Of course, fluoride alone won’t help you protect your teeth. You should always brush twice a day and floss regularly. Also, try to avoid consuming too much food and liquids that contain harmful sugars.