Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally, and which helps to strengthen teeth and prevents cavities. It works by supporting healthy tooth enamel and disrupting the activity of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, making it harder for these bacteria to grow and thrive. Tooth enamel is the tough outer coating on each tooth, and it protects the softer and more vulnerable layers of tooth underneath. The benefits of fluoride have been widely known for decades, and fluoride treatment is especially helpful if your risk of developing dental caries or cavities is higher.

How Tooth Decay Develops

Tooth decay can occur when plaque builds up on the surface of teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria. The bacteria in plaque produce acid that erodes tooth enamel, and your mouth becomes more acidic every time you eat and drink something containing sugars or carbohydrates. This is because these foods provide fuel for bacteria to thrive and acidity levels in the mouth remain high for approximately half an hour to an hour after eating.

Repeated exposure to these acids eventually weakens the enamel to such a degree that bacteria can get inside the tooth, infecting the dentin which lies just underneath the tooth enamel. Dentin is much softer and more easily decayed than enamel, and soon a cavity will form. If the cavity remains untreated and becomes larger, it will ultimately reach the pulp of the tooth right in the center and which contains the nerves, connective tissues and blood vessels of the tooth. By this stage, root canal therapy is needed to save the tooth from extraction.

It is a continual battle to remove plaque buildup before it can harden into calculus or tartar. Calculus is extremely tough and is the substance that is scraped or scaled away from teeth during a professional dental cleaning. Usually, most plaque is removed during regular brushing and flossing, but ensuring teeth receive an adequate amount of fluoride provides a little extra protection.

Where Do You Find Fluoride?

Many public water supplies are fluoridated, and fluoridation levels are continually monitored to ensure they are entirely safe. Other sources of fluoride include tea, infant formulas, and some foods such as fish that is consumed with its bones. All these types of fluorides are ingested, so they work systemically or from the inside out! However, here at Dr. Jeff Kindseth’s office, our dentist Dr. Jeff Kindseth can also provide topical applications of professional strength fluoride. It is better and more effective to receive fluoride topically and systemically.

Why Have a Professional Fluoride Treatment?

Although you may receive some fluoride through your diet and through drinking fluoridated water, topical applications of fluoride can be highly advantageous. Because the fluoride is applied to the tooth surfaces, it immediately starts to harden the tooth enamel. The professional fluoride products used in dental offices have a far higher concentration of fluoride than anything you can buy over the counter.

Professional fluoride treatments are quick and easy, non-invasive, and completely painless. One treatment we may recommend is to have your teeth painted with fluoride varnish. First, your teeth are cleaned professionally to remove all plaque and calculus buildup, ensuring the fluoride can penetrate your teeth more effectively. Next, your teeth are painted with fluoride varnish, and that is it! Once the varnish is applied to your teeth, it needs to be left in place for a short while. We can tell you exactly how long to leave the varnish on your teeth during your appointment. Afterward, the varnish is merely brushed away. While the fluoride varnish is on your teeth, you can still eat and drink normally, but it will be quietly getting on with the business of protecting your teeth.

Fluoride applications are frequently recommended for children because their tooth enamel tends to be slightly softer than adults and they are probably still getting used to cleaning their teeth properly. However, adults can also benefit from this treatment and especially if they are prone to developing cavities or have weaker and thinner tooth enamel. Dr. Kindseth can advise you if fluoride treatment is appropriate for your dental needs and can talk to you about how frequently it should be applied.

What about Fluoride Toothpaste?

In between professional fluoride applications, it’s a good idea to use fluoride toothpaste that has received the American Dental Association seal of approval. This ensures the toothpaste has been tested for efficacy and safety, and you can be sure it will do its job properly. After brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste get into the habit of spitting out the excess paste but don’t rinse your mouth with water. Rinsing your mouth with water removes any remaining fluoride in your mouth more quickly. When you don’t rinse with water, it’s easier for a thin layer of fluoride ions to remain coating your teeth, providing them with a little more protection.

Is Fluoride Safe?

Fluoride is perfectly safe provided you don’t ingest too much, so if you have young children make sure fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash is stored out of reach. Often dentists will recommend that very young children do not use fluoridated toothpaste and many children’s toothpaste are fluoride-free. It’s highly unlikely a child would eat or drink enough fluoridated toothpaste or mouthwash to make them ill, but it’s best not to take any chances. One problem that can occur when a child is exposed to excess fluoride is something called dental fluorosis, and it’s not harmful but can look unsightly.

Dental fluorosis can cause lacy white flecks to develop over tooth surfaces, or in more severe cases it can create brown, or even black spots on teeth or tooth surfaces may even look pitted. It’s a condition that is more likely to occur if you drink fluoridated well water that isn’t regularly tested. Sometimes fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, and if you use well water, it is worth having it tested properly to see if fluoride is present, and if so that the levels are safe.

There is no need to worry that fluoride treatments provided here at Dr. Jeff Kindseth’s office will harm your teeth. Dr. Kindseth will assess your need for fluoride treatment during your regular dental checkups and will ensure that you and your family and you receive the correct amount for your needs, giving you an optimal level of protection against cavities. Contact us in Dana Point, CA today!