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Why do Dentists Use Fluoride?

Seeing the dentist two times a year for a teeth cleaning is one of the key practices that leads to good oral health. When you’re in the dentist’s chair, they may recommend the ongoing use of a toothpaste that contains fluoride or even a direct application to the teeth. There are many misconceptions about fluoride that sometimes make patients reluctant to use it. Yet if your dentist is recommending it, there’s a good reason. Find out what role dental fluoride plays in oral health and why it’s safe to use on a regular basis.

What is Fluoride?

A naturally occurring mineral found in the earth’s crust, fluoride dissolves into water that flows over it and is absorbed by many plants out of the soil. You consume fluoride every day even if you don’t drink water with it added or use toothpaste that contains it. Your body uses it to remineralize the teeth and reinforce the enamel layer. Strong enamel protects your teeth from acids and the bacteria that form cavities. If you don’t get enough fluoride through your diet or drinking water, your dentist will recommend you use a toothpaste for fluoride treatment home options. In some cases, you may need treatments at the office.

How Can You Get It Naturally?

Foods high in fluoride include:

  • Raisins
  • All forms of oatmeal
  • Black tea
  • Coffee
  • Shellfish and shrimp
  • Grape juice.

Yet even if you consume a lot of these foods, you may not get enough fluoride to keep your teeth healthy. It largely depends on what’s in your water supply. Some areas have naturally high levels of fluoride. In this case, your dentist will likely tell you that a fluoride toothpaste or treatment is unnecessary. Most areas have low fluoride levels in the water even if they add it to the municipal supply. Discuss your diet with your dentist if you consume very high amounts of any of the above foods. They may recommend testing to determine if you’re at any risk of getting too much of this essential mineral. It’s rare that you’d reach any level of toxicity no matter what toothpaste you use or what you eat and drink since there is a low level of the mineral in each source.

Why Dentists Offer Fluoride Treatments

Erosion of the enamel and lack of remineralization are both visible to the dentist when they examine your teeth. The dentist will then recommend a fluoride treatment that infuses the mineral directly into the enamel to reinforce it. Fluoride treatments are often needed for children who eat a lot of candy and drink sodas that are high in acid. Using a targeted treatment actually exposes you to a lower amount of fluoride than having to use mouthwash or toothpaste with a high content for long periods of time. However, most dental patients living in areas with low fluoride levels in the water will need all the toothpaste and mouthwash products they can get to keep their teeth strong.

How Does a Dentist Apply Fluoride?

There are many forms of concentrated fluoride that a dentist can apply directly to the teeth. Gels are often used in a tray to cover molars and inner tooth surfaces without a lot of work. Foam is also dispensed in a tray and is more popular for children who might find thicker textures less pleasant. The varnish form of fluoride is painted directly onto your teeth and absorbs over the course of a few weeks. Your dentist will decide which format will work best for you based on the kind of remineralization you need and your comfort level. The fluoride treatment cost is largely the same regardless of the application method.

Fluoride Safety

As a part of a healthy diet and daily tooth-brushing habit, fluoride is perfectly safe. Watch out for fluoride in dietary supplements, especially for children. It’s more useful to use a toothpaste or mouth rinse containing the mineral than to take a multivitamin or supplement that contains it. You’ll absorb plenty while brushing and rinsing your teeth. Getting too much fluoride, especially during childhood, can lead to a harmless condition known as fluorosis. It causes white streaks on the teeth that are a little brighter than the surrounding enamel. Letting your dentist guide the amount of fluoride for teeth you get will prevent this issue.

Fluoride and Children

Children need fluoride even more than adults, especially while their baby and adult teeth are erupting. They’re also the least likely to get enough fluoride through their diet and drinking water. Babies don’t need as much fluoride as children above 6 months of age. Avoid using any water supply that has added fluoride when mixing up formula or baby cereal for children under that age. Children over 6 months of age will benefit from getting normal amounts of fluoride from both drinking water and their diet. Once a child has their first tooth, it’s safe to use fluoride toothpaste, but mouthwash containing the mineral shouldn’t be used by children under the age of 6.

Your dentist can answer any questions you still have about fluoride. Schedule an appointment with us here today at Preston Dental Loft.

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