We hear all the time that fluoride is important for our oral health, but there is some gray area surrounding this topic.
What is the best way to expose yourself to fluoride? It’s present in mouthwash, toothpaste, and tap water, and then there are all sorts of treatments available over the counter, through a prescription, or as a treatment from the dentist.
How do you make sense of all this? Why is fluoride so necessary to oral health? Keep reading to find the answers.
Why Fluoride is Important for Your Teeth
Believe it or not, your dental enamel is always undergoing one of two processes: demineralization or remineralization.
Demineralization occurs when acids, produced when the bacteria in your mouth are exposed to sugars, eat away at your teeth. The acids strip teeth of necessary minerals, like phosphate, calcium, and fluoride. Mineralization occurs when teeth are exposed to those same minerals and your enamel is able to take them in. If your teeth demineralize faster than they remineralize, the result is tooth decay.
Sometimes, if you catch demineralization early enough, you can stop decay in its tracks. So if you’re prone to decay, it’s extra important that you make sure your teeth are being exposed to plenty of the minerals they need to stay strong.
It’s also important for children to get plenty of minerals, like fluoride, as their teeth develop. If teeth are exposed to plenty of healthy minerals as they grow in, their adult teeth are more likely to last a lifetime.
What Fluoride Treatments are Available?
Tap Water: Many cities throughout the country enrich the local water supply with fluoride. To see if your town is one of them, use the CDC’s water system map.
OTC and Prescription Pastes and Rinses: Certain toothpastes and mouth rinses contain fluoride. These can be purchased over the counter, or your dentist may prescribe you a heftier dose.
In-Office Treatments: While you’re at your dentist appointment, your dentist may apply a gel, foam, or varnish for a few minutes before rinsing off. Of all the fluoride treatements available, this one contains the largest amount of fluoride.
Supplements: Your dentist can also prescribe a fluoride supplement in the form of a liquid or tablet.
How Do I Know if I Am Getting Enough Fluoride?
According to The American Dental Association (ADA), you should be exposed to fluoride both topically and orally. That means you should drink water infused with fluoride or take a supplement, along with using a fluoride paste or other topical treatment.
To know for sure whether you’re getting exposed to enough fluoride, consult with your dentist. They will come up with an appropriate treatment for you that is based on several factors. These include how prone you are to decay, and whether your city adds fluoride to the water.
This is just one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to visit the dentist every 6 months for a checkup. They can assess your fluoride intake and if remineralization has occurred, they can adjust as needed with a prescription toothpaste if necessary.
Fluoride levels are just one of the many reasons why it’s important to visit your dentist for a check-up every six months. During your visit, your dentist will evaluate you or your child’s teeth to determine if additional means are necessary for getting the proper amount of fluoride.