Is Fluoride Necessary in General Dentistry Visits?
In the field of general dentistry, fluoride is an effective tool for combatting tooth decay and preserving the health of a smile. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many substances, including bones and tooth enamel. It serves a variety of purposes in the dental world, including supporting healthy tooth enamel, combating harmful bacteria, and reducing patients’ risk of developing caries, cavities, and decay.
The many benefits of fluoride
Fluoride’s main function is to rebuild, or re-mineralize, weakened tooth enamel. In doing this, fluoride serves to:
- Inhibit the growth of harmful, decay-causing oral bacteria
- Restore minerals to the tooth’s surface where bacteria has eroded the enamel
- Reverse early signs of tooth decay
Though fluoride use in general dentistry has long been the subject of controversy, there is no denying its benefits. Several studies reveal that people who drink fluoridated water are 40% to 60% less likely to develop tooth decay than individuals who drink non-fluoridated water. A review of studies found that children who receive annual professional fluoride treatments are 43% less likely to develop cavities or decay.
General dentistry recommendations for fluoride use
The Mayo Clinic has daily fluoride intake recommendations, which range from 0.1 to 4 mg, depending on a person’s age and needs. How can individuals make sure to meet those recommendations and realize the most benefit from this naturally occurring mineral? The key is to identify and take advantage of top fluoride sources.
Professional fluoride treatments
The American Dental Association recommends adults and children undergo professional fluoride treatments once every three months to a year, depending on the patient's oral health. A dentist may recommend more frequent treatments to anyone at high risk for caries and decay, such as individuals who smoke, drink alcohol in excess, or live with an eating disorder. Professional treatments in the form of a gel, rinse, or varnish typically contain higher concentrations of fluoride than in over-the-counter products.
Fluoridated mouthwashes and toothpaste
Fluoridated mouthwashes and toothpaste are almost singlehandedly responsible for the significant decline in cavities since the 1960s. Brushing twice a day with an ADA-approved toothpaste can greatly enhance the benefits. Using a mouthwash with fluoride helps seal in those benefits and provide ongoing protection.
Water and food sources
Though some water sources naturally contain fluoride, it was not until 70 years ago that communities started adding the mineral to public water supplies. Today, drinking water contains the recommended fluoride levels per serving, helping to drastically reduce the rate of tooth decay across the nation. In addition to public water supplies, fluoride is regularly added to baby formula.
Finally, for patients who do not receive enough fluoride through other sources, a dentist may recommend fluoride supplements. Available by prescription only, these supplements come in drop, tablet, and lozenge forms and may be recommended to patients of all ages, beginning at age six months. Typically, supplements are only necessary for people living in communities that do not have adequate amounts of fluoride in their water sources.
In the world of general dentistry, fluoride is a wonder mineral. Discover its many benefits and ask a dentist if you need a professional treatment during your next visit.
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