Fluoride treatments and fluoride are essential to your family’s oral care and dental health. Fluoride as a way to strengthen teeth was noted by scientists in the early 1900s. Then toothpaste with fluoride came around in the mid-1950s with the first clinically proven toothpaste to prevent decay.
Now, fluoride toothpaste is everywhere. At dentist’s offices, doctors and dental hygienists use more concentrated fluoride treatments as part of regular dental cleanings for kids and adults.
Discover more with our answers to frequently asked questions about fluoride treatments.
Fluoride can prevent tooth decay by shoring up the outer layer of your teeth’s enamel. It helps the healthy buildup of minerals on your teeth while making them more resistant to acids. Some studies show that fluoride can stop tooth decay that’s already started.
Fluoride works by strengthening the outer layer of enamel and also chemically negating the acid that forms in your mouth after bacteria breaks down sugar.
Chemically speaking, fluoride ions have a negative charge at the atomic level, making them a weak base and alkaline in your mouth. The negative charge cancels out any acids with a positive charge in your mouth. Weak acids slowly erode the enamel on your teeth.
Not only is saliva a weak acid in your mouth, but bacteria that occur naturally in your mouth feed on the sugars and starches left behind from sugary foods. The bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, creating even more acid after consuming the sugar.
Fluoride, as a weak base and an alkaline substance, neutralizes the acids in your mouth to prevent them from wearing away the enamel.
Dentist offices apply fluoride treatments to your teeth as a gel or varnish. The difference between fluoride treatments at our office and the fluoride in your toothpaste is that professional-grade treatments have higher concentrations of fluoride in them.
A dental hygienist will paint your teeth with fluoride varnish, which is sticky, during a dental cleaning. This will stay on teeth for several hours to allow the fluoride to seep into the tiny, natural holes in your teeth’s outer layer. We may use a fluoride varnish for children.
Your child’s pediatric dentist may recommend fluoride varnish two to four times per year. It will depend on how likely your child will get a cavity as to the number of times a fluoride varnish will be applied.
A fluoride varnish starts off as sticky. Your child’s dentist or dental hygienist will apply the substance along the top and sides of each tooth with a small brush. The varnish hardens when it comes in contact with saliva, preventing your child from licking it off.
Don’t worry. Fluoride varnish is very safe. It doesn’t hurt when applied to the teeth. Afterward, your child can eat or drink soft foods, as well as cold or warm foods or liquids. Try to avoid hot foods or beverages until it’s time for the varnish to come off.
Please do not brush or floss your child’s teeth for four to six hours. Your child’s dentist may advise you to keep the varnish on until the following morning. Brushing and flossing will remove the varnish altogether. Make sure your child spits when they brush.
Varnish isn’t the only option for a fluoride treatment, but it’s probably the most relevant one for a child.
Fluoride gel is a popular way for dentists’ offices to apply fluoride to the teeth of adults. It has the consistency of a thick paste but is usually translucent. It comes in a few different flavors and colors.
A dental hygienist applies fluoride gel using a cotton swab or from a plastic tray that sits on your teeth for a few minutes to allow the fluoride to seep into your teeth’s outer layer. Then, the hygienist will wipe away any remaining gel after the trays are removed. You should have a professional fluoride gel treatment two to four times per year. A dentist may prescribe a fluoride gel for at-home treatment once a week.
Fluoride gels contain around 10,000 parts per million of fluoride. By comparison, toothpaste averages 1,000 to 1,100 parts per million of fluoride. A dentist office can apply higher concentrations of fluoride to your teeth because their teams are trained to monitor fluoride gel treatments as they apply and remove them based on current medical recommendations.
Further, fluoride gels form a reservoir on the surface of teeth that slowly releases fluoride over time, protecting your teeth for longer periods.
Absolutely yes. They are safe when administered properly.
The main concern for dentists and dental hygienists is ingesting too much concentrated fluoride. As part of a fluoride treatment, a dental hygienist will use a saliva ejector (the suctiony tube we put in your mouth during dental treatments) to make sure you or your child doesn’t swallow much of the fluoride treatment.
Fluoride makes the outer layer of teeth stronger by adding a thin layer that works in concert with the calcium in the enamel of your teeth.
A dentist may recommend additional fluoride treatments for people with certain conditions that may increase someone’s risk of tooth decay.
If you have frequent cavities, like one every other year, a dentist may recommend additional fluoride treatments.
Wearing crowns, bridges, or braces may put your teeth at a greater risk for tooth decay because some parts of your teeth may be harder to clean. Additional fluoride treatments can help.
Gum disease may cause more of your teeth to become exposed to bacteria because your gums are receding and not as effective at protecting the roots of your teeth. You might have increased chances of tooth decay, and professional fluoride treatments can help reduce tooth decay.
Dry mouth can be caused by a few conditions. Having a dry mouth reduces the amount of saliva naturally circulating in your mouth. Saliva helps wipe away food particles throughout the day while helping to neutralize acids caused by bacteria. If you take medications that cause dry mouth, your dentist might recommend fluoride treatments more than two or four times a year. Please let your dentist know if you are taking any prescription medications or undergoing regular medical treatment under the care of a doctor.
Yes, your dentist may recommend and prescribe fluoride treatments at home. Your doctor or dental hygienist will show you how to use the at-home treatments properly.