Fluoride is an important component in the healthy development of children’s teeth. Here, our North Delta dentists explain why and when fluoride treatment is a good idea.
What exactly is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and in certain water sources. It can also be found throughout the Earth’s crust, and in general is widely distributed in nature.
In the 1930s, researchers noticed in that, when people grew up in areas with naturally fluoridated drinking water, they had up to two thirds fewer cavities than those who grew up drinking water that was not fluoridated.
Because of these findings, today fluoride is added to water supplies in many places worldwide to help support strong, healthy teeth among the population, keeping community healthier as a whole.
How does fluoride work?
Fluoride prevent cavities in two ways:
- Concentrations of fluoride build up in children's growing bones and teeth, hardening the enamel of baby and adult teeth before the erupt.
- It hardens the enamel of adult teeth that have already erupted as well.
Fluoride works during what's called the "demineralization and remineralization process", which takes place inside your mouth when you eat. After you eat, your saliva contains higher levels of the acids that cause “demineralization”. Demineralization is a dissolution of the calcium and phosphorous under the surface of the teeth.
During times when your saliva is less acidic, it actually has the opposite effect, replenishing the calcium and phosphorous under the surface of the teeth (remineralization).
Remineralization is when fluoride comes into play. When fluoride is present during remineralization, the deposited minerals are harder than they would be if it wasn't there.
In addition, this helps make teeth stronger and more resistant to the effects of demineralization when the next phase takes place.
How do I know if my kids are getting enough fluoride?
To find out of you and your family have a fluoridated water supply, you can contact your local water district to ask.
If it is, then just drinking the water and brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste will probably be sufficient for children and adults with healthy teeth.
Whether your water is fluoridated or not, let your dentist know, and she will help you determine whether additional fluoride treatment would be right for your family.
What kinds of fluoride treatments are available?
You dentist will recommend appropriate fluoride treatment (if any), depending on your child's needs. She may recommend any of the following treatments:
- In-Office Gel, Varnish or Foam Treatments: These treatments contain a higher concentration of fluoride than what is found in rinses or toothpastes. They are applied at your dentist’s office by a qualified dental professional.
- Fluoride Supplements: Fluoride supplements are available in tablet or liquid format, by prescription only.
- Mouth Rinses & Toothpastes: Low fluoride concentration formulas are available for purchase at most pharmacies. Higher concentrations are available via prescription by your dentist.
When is fluoride intake most beneficial?
Fluoride is generally considered necessary for the healthy dental development of children from infancy through to the age of 16. During this whole time period, the baby and adult teeth are developing and erupting, and they need fluoride to grow strong.
Adult teeth can also benefit from fluoride treatment, so no matter how old you are, be sure to discuss fluoride intake with your dentist!