Is Fluoride Treatment Necessary? Understanding Fluoride & Its Role in Dentistry

Is Fluoride Treatment Necessary? Understanding Fluoride & Its Role in DentistryIf your dentist recommended dental fluoride treatment, you may be wondering if you actually need it. While there are conflicting arguments regarding dental fluoride and whether patients need fluoride to prevent tooth decay, fluoride has proven to be effective when it comes to strengthening teeth and promoting healthy, cavity-free smiles in both children and adults. But is fluoride treatment necessary for you? This article will help you understand what dental fluoride treatment is, its benefits, and considerations to help you make a more informed decision for your oral health.

What is Dental Fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in both systemic and topical forms. It is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. Minerals in teeth are lost each day due to bacteria, sugars, and acids found in the mouth, but fluoride remineralizes enamel making it more resistant to plaque bacteria. Fluoride can also reverse early signs of tooth decay.

What is Systemic Fluoride?

Systemic fluoride is ingested into the body and is then absorbed into forming tooth structures. Systemic fluoride can be found in community water supplies, dietary supplements, in fortified foods and beverages, and in your own saliva.  

What is Topical Fluoride?

Topical fluoride treatments are applied directly to your teeth to safely and effectively fight tooth decay. Topical fluoride treatments comes in a variety of forms such as toothpastes, mouth rinses, and varnishes. Some topical fluoride treatments must be applied by your dentist while others can be used at home.

About Water Fluoridation

Water fluoridation has been recognized as one of 10 great health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While fluoride is naturally present in groundwater and oceans, water fluoridation is adjusted to a recommended level in order to prevent cavities from forming. It’s a safe process that is similar to that of fortifying foods.

When some people drink fluoridated water, it may be enough to keep their teeth strong and healthy. However, dentist-recommended fluoride treatments may also be necessary to ward off tooth decay depending on the state of your oral health. According to the ADA, systemic fluoride and topical fluoride should both be used to prevent cavities and tooth loss.

Types of Topical Dental Fluoride Treatments

If you have a higher risk of developing tooth decay, your dentist will likely recommend topical fluoride treatment to be administered professionally and at home. These treatments have higher fluoride content than over-the-counter oral health products.

  • High-fluoride prescription toothpaste or gel for home use
  • Fluoridated mouth rinses for home use
  • Fluoride foams, gels, and varnishes administered by your dentist

Fluoride Treatment Benefits

Children and adults alike can benefit from using topical fluoride treatments at home and in a professional setting. Here are just some of the many benefits that fluoride treatment can provide:

  • Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria
  • Fluoride can reverse early signs of tooth decay
  • Fluoride speeds up remineralization and rebuilds tooth enamel
  • Fluoride can stop already present decay from penetrating further into teeth
  • Children and adolescents who receive fluoride treatment are less likely to develop cavities and tooth decay than those who don’t receive fluoride treatment

Who Should Use Dental Fluoride?

While dentists recommend the use of fluoride toothpaste to virtually all patients who have their natural teeth, there are times when additional fluoride treatments are needed. Professionally administered or prescription strength fluoride treatments may be needed in the following situations:

  • Patients who experience early signs of tooth decay or cavity formation. Fluoride treatments can help reverse decay and stop it from progressing.
  • Patients who have one cavity per year or every other year. A history of frequent cavities may warrant additional fluoride treatment.
  • Patients who struggle with maintaining their oral health at home. For example, the elderly and patients with special needs may not be able to adequately remove plaque from their teeth.
  • Patients with sensitive teeth. Professional fluoride treatments can help alleviate tooth sensitivity.
  • Patients with dry mouth conditions. Patients who have severe dry mouth from certain medications, diseases, or radiation treatment will have less saliva to wash away food particles and acids.
  • Patients who have gum disease. Gum disease can leave tooth roots exposed. This can put patients at high risk of developing tooth decay.  
  • Patients who have crowns, bridges, or braces. Dental crowns, dental bridges, and traditional braces can all increase the risk of developing tooth decay if patients don’t adequately clean around them.
  • Children. Topical fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office can help prevent tooth decay throughout your child’s life. Topical fluoride can keep a child’s tooth enamel strong and healthy whether they have primary (baby) teeth or permanent teeth. Primary tooth decay can also lead to premature eruption of permanent teeth which can make them grow in crooked and out of position.

Fluoride Treatment Considerations

While fluoride provides a number of benefits to patients who need it, there are times when fluoride treatment may not be ideal. Fluoride treatment may not be recommended for patients who:

  • Have teeth that are already high in fluoride content. Because their teeth are already highly resistant to cavities, certain patients may not need fluoride treatments or even to use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Have dental fluorosis. If a patient consumes too much fluoride while their teeth are still forming under their gums, white spots can form on their teeth. Dental fluorosis is typically found in children under the age of 8 who are still growing their permanent teeth. The spots typically form from swallowing too much fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Have skeletal fluorosis. Skeletal fluorosis involves other bones in the body. Symptoms can include joint stiffness, pain, and alteration in bone structure. People who have skeletal fluorosis are typically diagnosed after long-term exposure to higher than normal levels of fluoride found in water. The condition is quite rare in the United States but can still occur if someone drinks water that contains hazardous levels of fluoride or regularly swallows fluoridated toothpaste.

A Note About Fluoride Treatment for Kids

Fluoride treatment and fluoride toothpastes can be safe and effective when children use them properly at home or when they are administered by a pediatric dentist. However, fluoride can become hazardous if consumed at high doses. This is why parents should always supervise a young child’s brushing routine to ensure that they don’t swallow fluoride toothpaste or other fluoride-containing products.

So, is fluoride treatment necessary for me?

While fluoride treatments aren’t always necessary for adults, they can still be beneficial depending on the state of your oral health. For children, the American Dental Association recommends that children use the proper fluoride toothpastes/amounts for their age to ensure tooth enamel remains strong and cavity-free. Dentists may also apply topical fluoride treatments during routine teeth cleanings and exams depending on you or your child’s risk for developing tooth decay.

Remember: The above information points are general guidelines and should never be substituted for medical advice. If you are wondering if fluoride treatment is right for you or your child, contact our skilled Columbus dentists to schedule an exam.

Fluoride Treatment: For Further Reading

Dental Fluoride Treatment for Adults & Children in Columbus Ohio

Are you interested in dental fluoride treatment? Whether you have a high risk for developing tooth decay, or have sensitive teeth, our experienced dentists at Capstone Dental in Clintonville provide a variety of fluoride treatment options for adults and children. Contact us today to schedule an exam and fluoride treatment consultation.