There’s a reason why fluoride is often called “nature’s cavity killer.” This mineral is naturally occurring and it helps to strengthen tooth enamel, which prevents tooth decay. If you want teeth that are resistant to cavities, then you need to make sure that you are getting enough fluoride.
The good news is that you can find many dental products that contain fluoride, helping to strengthen and improve your teeth on a daily basis. Not only are professional fluoride treatments available in the dental office, but you can also use fluoride products at home as part of your daily dental habits. Additionally, many areas in the United States have tap water enriched with fluoride, which means you are getting exposure through your drinking water.
What Does Fluoride Do for Your Teeth
When you are offered a fluoride treatment during your dental appointment, you might ask: how does fluoride help teeth? It’s important to understand the various treatments and how they are affecting your smile so you can make informed decisions about your personalized dental plan.
In order to understand how a fluoride treatment for teeth works, it’s essential to learn more about how bacteria causes cavities. The truth is that bacteria is always present in the mouth, and these organisms feed on sugar, leftover food, and starches. When the bacteria is consuming food, it creates an acidic environment that attacks tooth enamel.
This ongoing acidic environment can break down the surface of the teeth over time, resulting in a weakening of the tooth structure that is prone to decay. When you have weak points in the outer layer of the teeth, then it is the perfect conditions for tooth decay that moves into the interior parts of the tooth.
Fluoride is important because it counteracts the effects of acids from bacteria. Fluoride treatments fight cavities by strengthening the enamel. In fact, fluoride can even reverse weak points in the enamel through a remineralization repair process.
Topical and Systemic Fluoride Treatment for Teeth
There are two ways that fluoride can be used for dental treatments:
Topical Fluoride Treatments
This method involves applying fluoride to the outer surface of the teeth. For example, when you are at the dental office for a checkup and cleaning, it’s common to include a fluoride treatment as part of the service. Topical fluoride applications strengthen the enamel by absorbing the minerals from the outside surface.
Another example of topical fluoride application is if you are using a toothpaste or mouthwash that contains fluoride. These treatments have lower levels of fluoride compared to in-office treatments. But regular, consistent use of these at-home treatments can have a positive impact to protect the teeth over time. Everyone should be using a toothpaste with fluoride as a way to prevent and avoid cavities.
Systemic Fluoride Treatments
Additionally, systemic benefits are available through other forms of fluoride treatments. These examples include fluoride in the water, which gives people of all ages doses of fluoride that are absorbed from the inside out.
Even before a child’s teeth break through the gums, they can benefit from fluoride treatments. Early doses of fluoride strengthen the enamel on the baby teeth, so these teeth are more resistant to decay as they grow in.
Drinking tap water is the most common way to receive fluoride systemically. Additionally, small amounts of fluoride are available through food since this mineral is naturally-occurring in the environment.
Safety and Efficacy: Is Fluoride Good for Your Teeth?
We have more than 70 years of data showing that fluoride is not only effective, but also a safe way to prevent cavities. Many major health organizations agree that fluoride is good for teeth, including the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association.
Researchers have found that adding fluoride to drinking water helps to fight childhood cavities. One report showed that children living in areas without fluoridated water are 3x more likely to need dental surgery due to complications that develop from cavities and tooth decay.
People of all ages benefit from fluoridated water and fluoride treatments. Modern dental practices make it easy to have a regular fluoride treatment for teeth. This preventive approach helps to maintain good dental health and minimize the risk of tooth decay that leads to a need for invasive dental treatments in the future.
What Does a Lack of Fluoride Do to Teeth?
Minerals are essential for many aspects of health, and especially dental wellness. There are many minerals that are required in your diet to support structures such as teeth, bones, soft tissue, and more.
If you are lacking in these minerals, such as calcium and fluoride, then the teeth and bones can start to weaken. Over time, the weakness leads to health complications, such as cavities and bone fractures.
In the early stages, most people don’t realize that they are lacking minerals because there aren’t any serious health implications. But the weakening builds up over time, eventually resulting in symptoms that need to be treated: cavities and broken bones.
So, instead of waiting for a tooth decay diagnosis, it’s better to be proactive about your dental care with regular fluoride treatments. This preventive approach is a minimally-invasive method for protecting your teeth, which means you can avoid more invasive treatments in the future. It’s much easier to use fluoride right now to remineralize and reverse weakened tooth enamel.
Fluoride is a great example of how small health habits right now prevent bigger issues in the future. When you are proactive with getting the necessary minerals, it means that you can strengthen the teeth before more serious complications occur.
How Often Should I Fluoride My Teeth?
Regular use of fluoride is an excellent solution to prevent cavities and tooth decay. A general recommendation is to use professional fluoride treatments twice a year when you visit the dentist for your regular checkup and cleaning. For example, our team will complete the examination and clean your teeth, then you have the option to apply a fluoride treatment that will help to strengthen the enamel.
Additionally, make sure you are using fluoride products at home to maintain strong teeth between appointments. Over-the-counter toothpaste products usually contain fluoride. Check the packaging to make sure you are using toothpaste that includes fluoride.
Or, if your teeth are prone to decay, then it might be smart to use a stronger fluoride toothpaste. Our dental team can provide you with prescription-strength toothpaste that provides extra protective benefits between your dental checkups. These products are affordable and simple to use, helping you maintain ideal dental health so you can avoid a need for fillings and cavities in the future.
How Long Can Fluoride Stay on Teeth?
It depends on the type of fluoride treatment you are using. For example, most in-office fluoride treatments should stay on the teeth for 30 – 60 minutes. Our dental staff will paint on the fluoride treatment before you leave. Then, you will need to avoid food and drink during the next hour to allow the fluoride to continue working.
After an hour, you can brush your teeth to remove the fluoride covering, then resume your normal eating and drinking.
On the other hand, at-home fluoride treatments aren’t designed to stay on the surface of the teeth for very long. For example, when you are using a fluoride toothpaste, then the fluoride will only stay on your teeth for a few minutes while you are brushing. You apply the toothpaste on your toothbrush, then set a timer to brush your teeth for 2 minutes. Then rinse as normal.
Fluoride: An Important Preventive Treatment
Tooth decay is usually irreversible, unless you stop the decay in the earliest stages. Fluoride is an effective solution since it provides remineralization benefits to strengthen enamel, which protects against the acid-producing bacteria in your mouth.
What does fluoride do for teeth? It provides immediate benefits and long-term protection. The small dental habits you are following each day add up, helping you to protect your natural teeth and avoid major dental issues in the future. Preventing smaller cavities means that you can minimize the need for major restorations, tooth extractions, root canals, and other serious treatments throughout your life.
Children, teenagers, and adults all need proactive fluoride treatments to maintain good oral health for life. If you have questions about in-office fluoride or at-home products, then reach out to our dental team to learn more about your options.
Quality Dental Services for the Whole Family
At myDental, we partner with families to help everyone maintain healthy smiles. Our approach is to focus on prevention, which is why fluoride and other similar treatments are a foundational part of our services.
We are happy to educate our patients and answer questions (such as what does fluoride do for teeth), empowering you to choose the dental services that help you maintain a beautiful smile for life.
If you need to visit with a dentist or it’s time for a routine checkup, then reach out to schedule an appointment at one of our nearby locations. We offer a full range of dental services, including general dentistry, preventive care, cosmetic treatments, and more.