Fluoride has been one of the great game-changers in children’s dental health. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. Scheduling fluoride treatments. All of these child-friendly dental habits help prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel.
And we adults enjoy the benefits of fluoride as well. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. If only we hadn’t outgrown fluoride treatments… or have we? Time to have an adult conversation about fluoride treatments!
- To Start, Some Dental Chemistry
The enamel in our teeth is largely made of calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, the mineral crystals that make teeth and bones so hard and strong. But enamel isn’t indestructible. The oral bacteria in plaque create acids that cause demineralization, stripping away calcium and phosphate ions. This leaves the tooth surface weakened and vulnerable to decay.
Our bodies have a way of compensating for demineralization. Saliva is filled with calcium and phosphate ions that restore lost minerals. This balancing act goes on every day. When conditions in the mouth are too acidic, however, remineralization can’t take place as effectively. Here’s where fluoride is so beneficial.
- Why Fluoride?
First, because fluoride helps remineralize. Fluoride works on the surface of the tooth to attract the calcium and phosphate ions in our saliva, restoring them to our teeth. Even better, it joins with these ions to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite crystals are larger, stronger, and more resistant to acids than hydroxyapatite. This means your teeth are not only remineralized, but stronger than they were originally!
- Why Adult Fluoride Treatments?
While fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste might be all you need for strong enamel, there are several conditions that make fluoride treatments a good addition to your preventive care at our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office.
- Problems with dental hygiene. Consider fluoride treatment if you have trouble brushing and flossing, if you wear braces, or if there’s any other reason that makes daily cleaning more difficult.
- Exposed roots. Gums often recede as we age, and can pull away from the teeth even further with added factors like gum disease, harsh brushing habits, teeth grinding, or smoking. As gums recede, parts of the tooth roots are exposed. Because roots are covered with cementum instead of the much harder enamel, they are more vulnerable to decay.
- Dry mouth. Medical conditions, medications, and aging can cause a decrease in saliva production. Because saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, bathes the teeth with minerals that strengthen enamel, and neutralizes acids, less saliva can equal more cavities.
- Our individual biology. Some of us are born with weaker tooth enamel, and so are more at risk for cavities—even with great brushing and flossing habits.
In all of these cases, fluoride treatments can provide the extra protection you might need for stronger tooth enamel and improved dental health.
- Treatments Are an Easy Addition to Your Dental Appointment
Regular fluoride treatments are neither complicated nor time-consuming. Fluoride can be administered as a varnish, a gel, a rinse, or a foam. It can be applied with a brush, a swab, as a mouthwash, or in a tray. After application, the doctor will let you know if any follow up instructions, such as avoiding food and drink for 30 minutes after treatment, are necessary. That’s all there is to it. Protection lasts for months, and your dentist can let you know when a re-application is needed.
You’re doing the right thing by using a fluoride toothpaste and keeping up with your dental exams and cleanings. Ask the doctor if a fluoride treatment is something that could strengthen your teeth and help prevent decay—it could be a game-changer for your dental health!