The use of fluoride in preventing tooth decay has sparked numerous opinions on both sides of the equation. I wanted to use this post to explain my approach to fluoride, and where I stand on what is a rather contentious issue.
First, let’s review the usage of fluoride, a subject we touched on in a previous post. Essentially, there are two different kinds of fluoride – “systemic” and “topical.”
Systemic fluoride, which we get from drinking water, is called systemic because it goes through your system. Most cities have fluoride in their water, and it helps aid in the development of permanent teeth.
Topical fluoride is what you get from toothpaste, mouthwash or at a dental visit. This topical fluoride strengthens the enamel on the teeth when it is applied.
Much of the controversy revolves around systemic use of fluoride. One Google search will reveal numerous posts both for and against the fluoridation of drinking water.
I do not have a position on the systemic use of fluoride. Data exists on both sides of the issue, and I believe you can review it and reach your own conclusions. However, I do advocate the use of topical fluoride, and I will offer it as an option for my patients.
Using Topical Fluoride to Prevent Tooth Decay
We provide a fluoride treatment for patients to aid in the prevention of cavities. We first offer it when a child is around the age of three; generally, when they’re able to spit out the fluoride. The ADA recently announced it recommends a tiny dollop of fluoride toothpaste once that first tooth comes in.
Our treatment includes using fluoride foam on a child’s toothbrush, which we brush on the enamel of the teeth. The child then spits out the foam (or we let Mr. Thirsty suck up the excess) and then we recommend the child does not eat or drink for a half hour. You want the fluoride to sink into the enamel.
On occasion, we use a fluoride varnish for older children and adults. The fluoride varnish helps protect the enamel, especially when people have deep pits and grooves, which can make them more prone to decay. In these cases, we use a small paintbrush and apply it to the grooves of the teeth.
Fluoride can also be used on adult patients when there is an increased sensitivity due to a variety of factors.
Fluoride Treatments Are Your Choice
Ultimately, the decision to pursue fluoride treatments is yours. Everyone has varying opinions, and there is plenty of information to do your own research and make an informed choice. We’re here to give you options, not necessarily opinions.
We do know that excessive amounts of fluoride, when ingested, can be harmful. However, by following the recommended usage levels with topical treatments, we believe this is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay.
We’ve provided some links that delve even further into the subject. We hope these help clarify, not confuse the issue. As we said, you’re going to find a lot of contradictory arguments. We’re not here to take a side on the topic of systemic fluoridation, but we are happy to answer any questions on topical fluoridation. Be sure to ask when you next visit us.
What is Fluoride? What Does Fluoride Do?
American Dental Association’s Fluoridation Facts
Fluoride Action Network