Using Fluoride to Protect Your Teeth

You brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly and visit the dentist every six months, but did you know that fluoride — a natural mineral that helps prevent cavities and tooth decay — also helps keep your teeth healthy and strong?

Fluoride is effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay by coating your teeth and preventing plaque from building up and hardening on the tooth's surface.

Is Fluoride beneficial for you and your family?

The short answer is: YES! The benefits of fluoride were discovered in Colorado in 1901, where naturally occuring high levels of fluoride in the water led to a population of patients that were resistant to dental decay. Today, the U.S Center for Disease Control says that public water fluoridation is one of the top ten public health achievements of the twentieth century, and advocates for its continued use. In addition, the American Medical Association, American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, as well as most other of the major medical and public health associations, all urge continued use of fluoridation of public water supplies. 

Yet there is a vocal minority that insists that ingested fluoride could be dangerous.  The major issue is that like most things, too much of a good thing can be harmful. Just like taking too much aspirin or vitamin D is bad for your health, getting the right amount of fluoride is important.  And since fluoride can also be found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and certain supplements, its important to make sure your child is not being over fluoridated if they accidentally are swallowing any of these products.  The most common side effect of over-fluoridation is "fluorosis," or permanent white spots on the teeth.  Do not let children use fluoridated oral products until they are at least 2 years old, or until you are sure they know how to spit! Find out if your town fluoridates its water, and then take appropriate action.  Marshfield does not fluoridate, but Duxbury, Scituate, Pembroke and Cohasset all do fluoridate their water at 1 PPM (parts per million). If you live in a non-fluoridated town, you should consider giving oral supplements to your child.  Consult your physician or dentist for more details. 

Fluoride comes in two varieties, systemic and topical:

  • Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through a public water supply or a Rx. While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to cavities.
  • Fluoride can also be applied topically to help prevent caries (cavities) on teeth present in the mouth. It is delivered through toothpaste, mouthwash, and professional fluoride applications.

Receiving a fluoride treatment from your dentist

A fluoride treatment in your dentist's office takes just a few minutes. After the treatment, patients may be asked not to rinse, eat, or drink for a short period in order to allow the teeth to absorb the fluoride. Depending on your oral health or your doctor's recommendation, you may be required to have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or 12 months. Your doctor may also prescribe an at-home fluoride product such as a mouthwash, gel, or antibacterial rinse.

How to choose the right fluoride treatment

When choosing your own at-home fluoride product (such as toothpaste or mouthwash), always check for the American Dental Association's (ADA) seal of acceptance. Products marked with the ADA seal of approval have been carefully examined by the ADA, and approved based on safety and effectiveness. Take care of your teeth and smile bright with dental fluoride treatments!

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