But what if we told you there was a quick and easy treatment that could significantly reduce your entire family’s risk of developing tooth decay that requires unpleasant drilling and dental fillings? Would you do it? Of course you would!
Luckily, this amazing cavity-prevention treatment is readily available both in your home and from our skilled team here at Lifetime Dental Care, PLLC, in Woodbridge, Virginia. It’s called fluoride, and it’s essential for healthy teeth. Here’s what you should know about it.
Often referred to as nature’s cavity fighter, fluoride is a mineral that occurs in rocks, soil, and water. When this mineral is applied to your teeth topically (fluoride toothpaste) or taken into your body systemically (fluoridated tap water), it fortifies and protects your enamel to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
When fluoride mixes with your saliva, it fights acid-producing bacteria that turn into plaque and bonds with any weakened areas of enamel it encounters. When fluoride bonds to these spots, it replenishes lost calcium and phosphate to help reverse early signs of tooth decay and make your teeth more resistant to future decay.
Fluoride is so important for your oral health that municipalities across the United States have been adding the mineral to drinking water for the past 75 years. Community water fluoridation — or adjusting the amount of fluoride in household drinking water — helps reduce tooth decay in children and adults by about 25%.
Kids and adults with a relatively low risk of dental decay can often stay cavity-free through frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride, attained by drinking fluoridated water and using a fluoride toothpaste every day.
Family and pediatric dentists also recommend that all older children and adults use fluoride toothpaste for twice-daily brushing because doing so has several major oral health benefits. When you use fluoride toothpaste, you:
Fluoride toothpaste contains a higher concentration of the mineral than fluoridated water, and as such, isn’t meant to be swallowed. Accordingly, parents with babies should use just a small “smear” of fluoride toothpaste when their baby’s first teeth appear until the age of 3, about the time when a toddler is old enough to spit after having their teeth brushed with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Children and adults who have a higher risk of dental decay — because they don’t drink fluoridated water, have special needs, poor brushing habits, or a history of cavities — can benefit from having additional fluoride treatments at each bi-annual teeth cleaning and dental exam.
There are various in-office fluoride treatments, including:
With this treatment, your dentist “paints” a small amount of fluoride directly onto each tooth. Some of the varnish is absorbed by weakened areas of enamel, while the rest hardens and dries quickly as it interacts with your saliva. The dried fluoride varnish is cleared away the next time you brush your teeth.
For the treatment, your dentist squeezes fluoride foam into two mouthguard-like dental trays and inserts them into your mouth for a few minutes. The foam coats your teeth, getting into all the nooks and crannies.
This treatment works much like a mouthwash — you simply swish the fluoride rinse in your mouth for a couple of minutes to coat your teeth, then spit it out.
Gels are the most versatile fluoride treatments; our team can paint them directly onto your enamel like a varnish, or squeeze them into a mouthguard tray that you wear for a couple of minutes.
With any in-office fluoride application, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes afterward.