Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps to strengthen teeth and protect them from cavities caused by dental decay. Dental decay happens when the sugars in the food and drink we consume interact with the bacteria in the mouth and produce a sticky film on the teeth called plaque and plaque acids. If plaque and these acids are not removed from our teeth promptly, they can start to cause damage. Plaque acids will eventually erode the outermost layer of the tooth, exposing the softer, inner sections which are more sensitive and can cause pain. If decay is left untreated, it can eventually penetrate the pulp which is the innermost part of the tooth where the roots are located. Resulting in further treatment such as root canal therapy or possibly an extraction.
Studies have shown that fluoride treatments are highly effective at providing additional protection against tooth decay when it is applied at least twice a year. For this reason, many dentists are now offering fluoride treatments alongside your regular, six-month dental check-ups. It is especially recommended for those patients who are at higher risk of developing cavities.
There are various groups of people who are more likely to suffer from dental cavities that would significantly benefit from fluoride treatment. These include people:
with poor oral hygiene
who use drugs or drink alcohol to excess
with a particularly poor diet
who have weakened dental enamel
who suffer from dry mouth
who haven’t seen a dentist in a long time
Fluoride treatment is completely painless, so there is no need to feel anxious about your appointment. Typically, fluoride treatment comes in the form of a rinse, foam, gel or varnish. The concentration of fluoride in these treatments is considerably higher than what you can obtain through your toothpaste or mouthwash alone. The type of application your dentist will use will depend on the form of fluoride you are having. For example, the varnish may be applied using a brush, but if you are using a rinse, this will probably be supplied as a type of mouthwash. The entire process usually takes just a few minutes and you will be able to leave as soon as it is complete. Before you leave, your dentist will let you know that you need to avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 30 minutes after your appointment. This will prevent the fluoride from coming off and ensure that your smile gets the full benefit of the treatment.