Strengthen your dental strategy with fluoride
Posted on December 27, 2022 in Dental Health
Prevention, prevention, prevention. Dental coverage puts a lot of focus on avoiding oral health problems — so much so that benefit plans usually cover routine checkups and cleanings at 100%.
There are two key reasons for this focus on prevention. First, regular visits to the dentist will help you maintain good oral health and potentially avoid some issues altogether. Second, in the event that you do have a dental problem, your dentist can detect it early and begin treatment to help you avoid more costly and complex procedures down the road.
But a smart preventive dental strategy doesn’t begin and end at your dentist’s office. It also includes your daily routine at home and other measures you take to maintain a healthy smile. Which brings us to fluoride — an effective way to prevent cavities and care for your teeth.
What is fluoride and how does it help?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens the hard outer surface of your teeth known as tooth enamel. It can even help reverse early signs of tooth decay. Here’s how it works:
- Your tooth enamel gradually thins over time, as acids from food and beverages wear it down.
- Using a fluoride toothpaste and getting fluoride from other sources can help rebuild (or “remineralize”) any weakened areas of tooth enamel. This makes your teeth more resistant to those cavity-causing acids.
- To effectively protect your teeth, fluoride toothpaste should be included as part of your everyday oral health care.
How to make fluoride part of your daily routine
Whether you know it or not, you are likely protecting your teeth and receiving fluoride from one of the sources below each day.
- Cavity-fighting toothpaste
- You should brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for two minutes each time.
- All toothpastes that have earned the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance contain fluoride. That means if your toothpaste’s packaging includes the ADA seal, you’re protecting your teeth with fluoride. In fact, 95% of toothpaste sold in the United States contains fluoride.
- Straight from your tap
- About 75% of community water systems add fluoride to their town’s water to help prevent tooth decay, which means water right out of your tap is likely a terrific source of fluoride.
- Why is fluoride in tap water? Because it works! Community water fluoridation has done so much to reduce tooth decay that it has been named one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
There are other ways to strengthen your teeth with fluoride, but they might not be part of your daily routine. Other methods include:
- Mouthwash:If mouthwash is part of your oral health routine, you can find options that include fluoride. However, it’s not recommended for children under the age of 6 to use mouthwash without approval from your dentist.
- Dental visits:Adults and children who are at a high risk for cavities may have their dentist apply fluoride directly to your teeth with a gel, foam, varnish or rinse.
- Fluoride supplements:Your dentist can give you a prescription for a tablet, drop or lozenge that acts as a fluoride supplement. This is typically done for children who could benefit from additional fluoride, either because they are at higher risk of cavities or because they don’t have access to fluoridated water.
Fluoride and protecting children’s smiles: It’s important to supervise your children as they brush their teeth to make sure they use the right amount of toothpaste and to limit the amount they swallow. Too much fluoride can be harmful to children and increase the risk of mild fluorosis (tooth discoloration) if it is overused. Here’s how much toothpaste your children should be using:
- Ages 3 and under: Use an amount the size of a grain of rice of fluoride toothpaste
- Ages 3 and up: Use a small pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste