Why Is Topical Flouride So Important?
Topical fluoride is applied directly to and absorbed by the tooth surface. Its most commonly found in the following products; flouride rinses, flouride toothpastes, and professionally administered foams, gels & varnish. Flouride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, (bacteria), and sugars in the mouth. It can also help reverse early decay. I have many parents ask me why fluoride is important and does it really make a difference? The answer is yes and many studies have proved it. The American Dental Association says that “Topical Flouride benefits both children and adults. After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay”. (1)
Flouride rinses and toothpaste can be found easily in most stores. These two products are beneficial in helping prevent tooth decay. It also reduces plaque levels, helps kill bacteria within plaque, slows down the colonization of pathogens, and decrease’s sensitivity. Most fluoride rinses are alcohol free so it does not cause a burning sensation or increase risk of dry mouth as many other rinses do. Not all rinses or toothpastes contain fluoride so make sure to review the label before purchasing. Look for products with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. Products that have the ADA Seal have been reviewed by the ADA’s council on Scientific Affairs and meet its criteria for safety and effectiveness.
Flouride varnish is only applied by dental professionals. For best results and continuous care, it’s recommended that fluoride treatments are done every 6 months, and for high risk patients every 3-6months. Professional treatments contain a much higher level of fluoride than the amount found in toothpastes and rinses. Varnishes are the most common and are painted on your teeth, foams are put into a tray which is applied to the teeth for 4 minutes, and gels can be painted on or applied by trays. Varnish applications are great because they take the least amount of time and have less patient discomfort. They are extremely beneficial for orthodontic patients and patients with hypersentivity due to root exposure. I have personally seen the results of topical fluoride applications in many of my patients who struggled with every day discomfort from cold sensitivity and hand scaling. Now, those patients can come in for their dental cleanings without worrying about feeling any discomfort and they no longer experience temperature discomfort while eating or drinking their favorite foods. Dentists have used in-office fluoride treatments for decades to help protect the oral health of children and adults.
Who benefits the most from topical fluoride?
- Infants and children between ages 6 months to 16 years of age. – This is when primary teeth and permanent teeth are erupting and homecare is not always the best.
- Dry Mouth conditions that are caused by many medications
- History of cavities
- Gum disease / Poor Oral Hygiene
- Presence of crowns & bridges
- Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy
- Root Exposure/ Tooth Sensitivity
- High Sugar or Acidic diet
- Drug or Alcohol Abuse
- Eating Disorders
As adults we have the ability to properly spit out our toothpastes and mouth rinses. Children need to learn how to properly brush with toothpaste and spit out fluoride rinses with the help of a parent. I encourage all parents to discuss using fluoride with their hygienist or dentists to ensure proper use, to make sure your child is not getting too much fluoride. If your child does get a little too much fluoride its typically harmless other than the risk of dental flourosis, which is not harmful to your health or your teeth, but it appears as minor white lines on children’s teeth. The risk of dental flourosis is only of concern when proper guidelines are not followed. These guidelines are to use the proper amount of toothpaste and children should be supervised when brushing and using mouthrinse.