If you’ve heard about fluoride at a dental office recently, it’s probably because this naturally-occurring mineral plays a big role in preventing tooth decay. Fluoride works by strengthening tooth enamel and making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Whether or not your child needs extra fluoride depends on a variety of factors (heredity being one of them), but overall there is a pretty well-established correlation between more fluoride and less tooth decay.
How to Get Additional Fluoride When Needed
There are two ways that your child can get additional fluoride: in topical form, or systemic. Topical fluoride is applied directly to the surface of the tooth, in a variety of ways, including mouthwash, toothpaste, or even fluoride treatment at the dentist’s office. Systemic, or swallowed, fluoride includes fluoridated water and dietary supplements.
If your child is at a higher risk of developing tooth decay, they may be a good candidate for an in-office topical fluoride treatment, since the fluoride used by the dentist is of a stronger concentration than that used in toothpastes or mouthwashes.
How Fluoride Treatement Works
The treatment, which is usually applied as a gel, foam or varnish, only takes a few minutes to apply using a cotton swab. Another way fluoride might be applied is as a rinse placed in a tray and held in place for several minutes. Either way it is applied, the patient is asked not to eat or drink a
nything for at least half an hour to allow the fluoride to help repair areas of decay. Depending on the state of the child’s oral health, fluoride treatments can be recommended every 3, 6 or 12 months.
Whatever type of treatment is recommended, a good rule of thumb is to ensure that any fluoride treatment your family may use is recommended by the American Dental Association and has their Seal of Acceptance, which means it has been carefully examined and meets criteria for effectiveness and safety.