Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral found in water and soil, helps prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is also incorporated into toothpaste, mouthwash, and supplements to promote healthy tooth enamel. In addition, dental offices offer topical fluoride treatments for young patients to help stave off decay, cavities, and infections.
The frequency of fluoride applications depends on the patient’s specific risks for developing cavities and the overall condition of both baby teeth and permanent teeth. Treatment recommendations usually occur following routine dental exams.
What is a Fluoride Treatment?
Fluoride treatments consist of professional-strength fluoride in the form of gels, foams, and varnishes. Varnishes are directly painted onto the teeth, while gels and foams are applied via mouth guards. Patients are typically required to hold the mouth guards between their teeth for up to four minutes to allow the fluoride to penetrate the teeth. Following treatment, patients should avoid eating or drinking for approximately 30 minutes. In some cases, a dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements in liquid and tablet form.
Fluoride intake is essential between the ages of 6 months and 16 years as primary teeth and permanent teeth develop. During this time, regular dental exams and cleanings are also important in helping to detect and treat early tooth decay. If your child has a history of developing a cavity at least once a year or if they have braces or crowns that raise their risk for tooth decay, fluoride supplements or periodic treatments may be recommended.
The American Dental Association recommends fluoride treatments at 3-month, 6-month, or yearly intervals based on the patient’s specific dental needs.
According to the American Dental Association, approximately 25% of children develop cavities before starting Kindergarten. To help lower the risk of tooth decay in young children, the ADA recommends children under three years of age brush with a thin smear of fluoride toothpaste and those between three and six brush with a pea-sized amount. In addition, dentists recommend that parents begin brushing their little ones’ teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth comes in.
Other Sources of Fluoride
In addition to toothpaste, treatments, supplements, and infant formulas often contain fluoride. In addition, food cooked in water also provides extra fluoride. Green and black teas have high fluoride concentrations, and certain types of bottled water have both naturally occurring and added fluoride.
Fluoride for Healthy Teeth and Early Prevention
When used as directed by a dental professional, fluoride offers many benefits ranging from strong teeth to prevention and/or slow growth of cavities. Consulting with your child’s dentist to determine their specific fluoride needs is a positive step towards optimal dental health.