Fluoride dental treatment is a very effective way of helping to prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is found naturally in food and water supplies, and the benefits are well known as it was originally added to the public water supply 60 years ago in carefully controlled amounts. There are two ways of obtaining fluoride:
Systemic fluoride dental treatment
Systemic fluoride dental treatment is the fluoride found in food and water and helps to strengthen teeth that are already erupted, and those which are still developing. It can also be taken as a supplement and in gel form and is often prescribed by a doctor or dentist. It’s very important not to ingest too much fluoride while teeth are still developing as this may cause a condition called fluorosis. Fluorosis is visible as white flecks on the teeth, and children between the ages of one and four are most vulnerable to developing fluorosis while those aged eight and over are at much lower risk.
Topical fluoride dental treatment
This is what your hygienist does with a strong fluoride foam or rinse at your cleaning appointment. A milder non-prescription version is available for home use. A topical application of fluoride can help teeth that are already erupted by penetrating the outer surface of tooth enamel and increasing resistance to decay. Fluoride is found in toothpaste, mouthwashes and gels, and it’s quite possible that your dentist or hygienist may recommend a professional fluoride treatment during dental checkups. This might take the form of a specialized mouthwash, or a gel that can be applied into a dental tray which is then inserted into the mouth and left for a short period of time.
This additional fluoride treatment can be very useful for people who have sensitive root surfaces, who may have deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of their back teeth, or who have a history of dental decay. It’s also good for people who do not produce adequate saliva and those whose oral hygiene habits need a bit of work.
The fluoride found in dental products and in water doesn’t immediately wash away from the mouth, but leaves a low level of fluoride ions in the saliva. The presence of these ions helps to slow down the de-mineralization of tooth enamel that occurs every time someone eats or drinks something and also helps the process of re-mineralization. The fluoride ions help to increase the rate of re-mineralization by raising the pH levels in the mouth, enabling a very thin veneer of fluid containing the fluoride ions to form over the tooth enamel. This increases the resistance of the enamel to acid, and helps teeth to re-mineralize, decreasing the rate at which dental decay occurs
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