Fluoride Treatments FAQ
Who needs fluoride treatment?
Fluoride treatments help to reduce the likelihood you will experience dental caries, or cavities, which are areas of decay where plaque bacteria have eaten away portions of your teeth. Your dentist can identify if you are at increased risk for dental caries and recommend treatments, especially if you have:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia
- A drug or alcohol dependency
- Previous history of dental caries
- Dry mouth
- Gum disease
- Presence of crowns, cavities or braces
Since both children and adults can fall into these categories, people of all ages who have their teeth intact can benefit from fluoride treatment.
How old should I be to start fluoride treatments?
Fluoride treatments are not harmful to you and are considered especially vital to those with developing teeth. Children and adolescents from the ages of 6 months to 16 years old should be exposed to fluoride and fluoride treatments to help their teeth get the healthiest, strongest start possible. This does not mean that adults do not need fluoride treatments, however. Even when your teeth have fully grown in, adults still need fluoride treatments to protect against future decay by keeping the teeth strong.
Please note, however, there is a difference between fluoride treatment administered at a dentist’s office and the fluoride-containing products you and your family could use at home. For example, you may wish to avoid exposing your child to fluoride toothpastes until she or he reaches 6 years of age until children are better able to understand how to care for their teeth and the importance of not swallowing toothpaste or other dental treatments. If you are concerned, however, about your child receiving fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office, discuss these fears with your physician.
How are fluoride treatments performed?
While you likely brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, fluoride treatments performed at a dentist’s office tend to contain higher amounts of the mineral. Fluoride treatments are not painful, however. Instead, they involve either brushing, rinsing or swabbing on a solution that contains high amounts of fluoride. After three to four minutes, your dentist or dental hygienist will wash the fluoride treatment away and you will be left with stronger teeth.
The frequency you have fluoride treatments performed depends upon your overall dental health. For example, some patients may undergo fluoride treatments at their twice-yearly dental cleanings. If you have a history of dental problems, however, your physician may recommend more frequent fluoride treatments, such as every three months. This can help to reduce the likelihood you will experience future decay and/or cavities.
“Twice yearly visits are recommended for someone who has really good health,” says Charles V. Ankar, DDS, a dentist with a family private practice in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Factors such as genetics, diet and home care can impact how often you will need to visit your dentist for cleanings and treatments.”
How does fluoride help my teeth?
Fluoride is intended as a protective measure. When you have fluoride treatments, this mineral is deposited back onto your tooth. This helps to strengthen your tooth enamel. As a result, your teeth are better protected against plaque bacteria and sugars bacteria are attracted to in your mouth. Fluoride also can help to reverse the signs of early tooth decay. Because you can lose fluoride over time due to decay caused by the foods and drinks you consume, fluoride treatments can help to re-strengthen your teeth for a healthy and strong smile.