Fluoride is an essential mineral necessary for enhancing and maintaining dental health. It is the ionic form of the mineral fluorine.
Fluoride helps in better absorption of calcium and phosphorus and hinders bacterial growth. Fluoride is especially beneficial to people with low oral health and a high risk of cavities.
In many places, people naturally receive fluoride from their diet and drinking water. But for people residing in places with low fluoride levels, fluoride treatment is the best solution.
Benefits of Fluoride
Fluoride has several effects on the body. These are:
- It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus which strengthens the teeth structure.
- It coats the teeth enamel and helps prevent the entry of bacteria into the internal teeth layers.
- It has an anti-bacterial effect that kills oral bacteria that cause dental caries.
These have several benefits to human dental health.
- It prevents the build-up of harmful oral bacteria and kills the ones accumulated in the teeth.
- It helps to prevent the formation of cavities.
- It can slow down and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
- It integrates over the teeth and protects the internal part of damaged teeth.
- It prevents the loss of essential minerals from the teeth.
- It can even help rebuild damaged enamel of teeth.
Thus, fluoride helps improve oral health to a great extent. Studies suggest that people who get the recommended level of fluorides suffer significantly less from oral problems. A fluoride treatment is a good alternative to painful dental procedures. Fluoride treatment also costs far less than other treatments.
There are many natural sources of fluoride. These include tea, coffee, spinach, grapes, shellfish and potatoes. Around the 1940s, authorities started adding fluoride to municipal water sources. Since then, fluoride has found its way into every food that utilises common water sources. Thus, there is no dearth of sources of systemic fluoride.
But one needs both systemic and topical fluoride for good oral health. That is why fluoride treatments are so important, even if you do not have significant damage. Regular fluoride treatments can help maintain healthy teeth and fend off tooth decay. The interval between treatments can be 3, 6 or 12 months. This depends on the water fluoride levels in your area and your general oral health. Low fluoride levels result in a higher risk of tooth decay. This requires more frequent treatments.
Fluoride Treatment Options
Your dentist has several options when it comes to professional fluoride treatments. He may use a solution, gel, foam or varnish with elevated fluoride levels. The higher level works much faster than the prolonged, low levels of our dietary sources. These formulae are not suitable for usage by yourself at home. The high fluoride level could have adverse effects if you ingest it by accident. The dentist uses a swab to apply the gel. For varnish, he uses a brush. Foam is best applied via a dental tray. Solutions are given as mouthwash. After the treatment, you are not allowed to eat, drink or swallow for at least half an hour. This gives time for the fluoride to be assimilated into your teeth. Moreover, ingestion of excess fluoride can have serious side-effects.
The best candidates for professional fluoride treatment are people with low, reversible tooth decay. In these cases, more invasive methods make no sense. Those with low fluoride levels in their drinking water also qualify for regular professional fluoride treatments. You can also get fluoride treatment for sensitive teeth. The fluoride helps cover up the parts of the teeth that have lost its enamel, thus reducing sensitivity.
Fluoride treatment for children’s teeth differs from fluoride treatment for adults. Fluoride treatment for adults can use fluoride formulae as both mouth rinse, cream or varnish. But fluoride treatment for children’s teeth should not use any easily soluble formula. This is because children are more prone to swallowing accidents. Swallowing fluoride can be dangerous. So dentists almost always use the varnish form when doing fluoride treatment for children’s teeth.
But regular visits to the dentist are not a feasible option for many. An alternative fluoride treatment for these people would be fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. These contain higher levels of fluoride than general sources. This helps make up for their dietary fluoride deficiency. But the dentist should make sure that the cumulative fluoride level received is still below the daily maximum permissible limit.
Children need far lower levels of fluoride than adults. You can use fluoride toothpaste for your child right from their first teeth. But many dentists forbid it. They will tell you to start fluoride toothpaste only after 3 years of age. But if you are confident in your supervision skills, you can start earlier. Children below 3 years of age should only use a grain-sized portion of the toothpaste. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 years should use a pea-sized portion. You should also encourage them to spit all of it out.
Side-effects of Fluoride Treatment
Like anything in the world, fluoride too is harmful at high levels. Immediate effects of fluoride overdose are nausea, abnormal sweating, exhaustion and diarrhoea. Extreme levels of exposure to fluoride can even lead to death from fluoride poisoning.
The most common effect of long-term exposure is fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is quite common in children. Many children experience exposure to high levels of fluoride before their permanent teeth appear. This can be due to too much fluoride in their potable water or excessive use of fluoride toothpaste. Many are victims of unnecessary fluoride treatments. Symptoms of fluorosis are white specks on the permanent teeth, dark stains on the teeth and pitting on the enamel.
Long years of exposure to high fluoride levels can also lead to skeletal fluorosis. Fluoride in the skeleton can affect bone homeostasis. It makes the bone dense and brittle due to calcification. Even the ligaments can get affected similarly. It makes our skeletal parts brittle. Early symptoms are pain and stiffness in the joints. Severe cases can even lead to impairment of normal movement.
How to Know if You Need Fluoride Treatment
Before you get professional fluoride treatment, find out the current level of fluoride you are getting. Get your water supply tested. You can visit a dietician or nutritionist to quantify the amount of fluoride you get through food. If you find you are not getting the recommended amount, consult with your dentist. You can also get professional fluoride treatment if your oral health is deteriorating. If frequent visits are inconvenient, you may ask for alternative fluoride treatments. But always make sure you stay within the recommended limit.
Your dental health is as important as your physical and mental health. Ignoring dental health can lead to many serious problems. These include tooth decay, cavities, plaque, tartar, stained teeth, gum problems, bleeding and even tooth loss. Ensure that you get sufficient dietary supplements of nutrients for healthy teeth and gums. But sometimes, deficiencies or unnatural circumstances may arise, leading to failing dental health. In such cases, getting a professional fluoride treatment done is advisable. It is easy, economical and gives fast results. Most insurance companies will cover the full or partial cost of fluoride treatment. Thus, most often, you will not even have to pay out of your own pocket. But it is important to only get a fluoride treatment done by certified, experienced dentists. Fluoride overdose is a possible risk and so should only be performed by expert hands.