Elmhurst Dentist Reviews the Uses of Fluoride Treatment

Written by Dr. Scharfenberg on Jun 14, 2011

As dentists, and as parents, we know how important pediatric dental care is for children to enjoy healthy smiles through adulthood. Some of the most frequent questions our Elmhurst family dentists get are about how much fluoride children should get and how that fluoride should be administered. Many parents have questions about why and how fluoride is used for kids and adults. Today I’m going to explain the benefits and methods of using fluoride in pediatric and adult dentistry.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a natural element found in soil, fresh water, salt water, and rocks. As you know, dental enamel is the hard outer surface of your tooth. Enamel allows you to chew, and protects your inner tooth from infection and decay. Fluoride is absorbed easily into tooth enamel, and can be used to strengthen teeth.

As you go through your day eating and drinking, your dental enamel is consistently under attack by acid, which weakens teeth by dissolving calcium and phosphorous in the enamel—this process is called demineralization. Fluoride actually protects teeth from demineralization, because it contains acid-neutralizing calcium and phosphate. Additionally, fluoride can also strengthen weak spots in the enamel through the process of remineralization.

How is fluoride used in dentistry?

Many adults receive adequate fluoride from the foods and drinks they consume daily. In addition, in the United States, tap water is actively fluoridated to help prevent tooth decay.

Patients can get additional fluoride from fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes. Professional fluoride treatments are administered in-office—these can be gels, foams, or mouth guard products. Professional fluoride treatments contain a significantly higher level of fluoride than over the counter dental products.

Many patients with compromised dental enamel can benefit from fluoride treatments. Fluoride is also frequently used in pediatric dentistry because children’s teeth absorb it easily—it strengthens developing bones and permanent teeth. However, children under the age of 18 months should not use fluoridated products, and children under the age of 6 should be monitored when using fluoride, because if it is ingested children could suffer from fluorosis. Fluorosis permanently stains and discolors permanent teeth as they are forming.

The best way to determine if you and or your family can benefit from flouride treatment is to consult with a family dentist. The fluoride found in home and in-office products can help strengthen tooth enamel and fight demineralization. Our Elmhurst family dentists are happy to answer your questions about using fluoride in your or your children’s dental care—feel free to give us a call at (630) 733-1624.