Recent generations have benefitted greatly from fluoride use as a means to decrease overall decay rates. Fluoride works to reduce dental decay by remineralizing any areas of the tooth that have become decalcified. While many people think of fluoride as being in the water supply or from the dental office, fluoride is also found naturally in some foods. The FDA has approved the use of fluoride for preventive care purposes.
Most over the counter toothpastes contain fluoride. Small children who are unable to rinse or expectorate should use a training toothpaste that is fluoride-free, to prevent excess consumption of the mineral.
Supplemental fluoride treatments may be necessary for people who are at an increased risk for decay. Examples of increased risks include:
In-office fluoride application is usually done with a gel or varnish. Varnish is much thicker and is brushed onto the teeth. The low viscosity increases the contact time and makes it more effective for decay reduction. Most dentists prefer to only apply topical fluoride up to the age of 14 while permanent teeth are still erupting and forming. In some cases at-risk patients may continue to need fluoride applications.
Prescription strength fluoride may be needed for patients with persistent dental decay needs. Only a small pea-sized amount is needed and is applied, usually in the evening, after normal brushing and flossing. It is recommended to not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after the application. Routine use can greatly decrease the risk of persistent tooth decay.
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