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How Fluoride Treatments Help Your Teeth

How Fluoride Treatments Help Your Teeth

Keeping your teeth healthy and strong is an important part of your overall well-being. But did you know there is a simple, inexpensive way to significantly reduce your risk of tooth decay?

Fluoride has been scientifically proven to strengthen enamel and prevent cavities when used properly. This article explores the science behind fluoride and how different treatment options work to protect your teeth. We’ll also address common questions and dispel myths regarding fluoride safety and who can benefit most from its decay-fighting power.

We extend a warm welcome to both our new and returning patients at White Pine Family Dentistry. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide dental care to you and your family for many years to come. We extend a warm welcome to both our new and returning patients at White Pine Family Dentistry. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide dental care to you and your family for many years to come.

The Science Behind Fluoride

Tooth enamel undergoes a continuous process of demineralization and remineralization. When acids from plaque bacteria or foods react with enamel, it causes the loss of calcium and phosphate ions from the enamel, known as demineralization. This makes the enamel porous and prone to decay. Fluoride helps to reverse this process by replacing the lost minerals, known as remineralization.

Fluoride ions from toothpaste, mouthwashes, or other dental products are incorporated into the crystal structure of enamel during the remineralization process. The fluoride makes the enamel more resistant to acid attacks by bacteria that cause cavities. When bacteria produce acid, the acid can’t dissolve as much calcium from enamel that contains fluoride. This helps reharden early enamel breaks down before a cavity forms.

Regular exposure to fluoride protects teeth from decay by strengthening tooth structure. It enhances remineralization and helps reverse the beginnings of cavities. Numerous studies have shown fluoride reduces tooth decay significantly, especially when used regularly from an early age.

Types of Fluoride Treatments

Here are the main types of fluoride treatments.

Over-the-Counter Products

Toothpaste is the most widely used form of fluoride. It strengthens enamel and prevents cavities when brushed twice daily. Mouthwashes containing fluoride provide additional topical benefits.

Prescription Fluoride Products

Professionally applied gels or varnishes deliver high doses of fluoride to help remineralize weak spots on teeth. Prescribed for patients with increased tooth decay risk.

Professional Fluoride Treatments

During dental cleanings, dentists may apply fluoride varnish which is painted on teeth. Some offices offer fluoride gel trays or fluoride foam bites which are more concentrated forms. They are applied for several minutes to coat the teeth and enhance remineralization. Professional treatments beyond routine cleanings can further reduce cavities when used alongside daily prevention.

Benefits of Fluoride Treatments

Here are the main benefits of fluoride treatments.

Strengthens Tooth Enamel

One of the main benefits of fluoride is that it strengthens tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard outer layer that protects the inner parts of the tooth. When enamel contains fluoride, it becomes more resistant to the acids produced by plaque bacteria. This makes it less susceptible to demineralization from these acids. Fluoride makes tooth enamel about two to three times more resistant to acid attacks than non-fluoridated enamel.

Reduces Cavities

Incorporating fluoride into enamel also makes it harder for acids to dissolve minerals from the enamel over time. This is why fluoride is so effective at reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay. Numerous studies over several decades have consistently shown that the regular use of fluoride (in toothpaste, mouthwashes, drinking water, or dental treatments) can reduce cavities by around 25% compared to non-fluoride use.

Reverses Early Signs of Decay

In some cases, fluoride may even help reverse these earliest signs of decay if treatment is provided promptly. A few professional fluoride applications in the dental office per year have been shown to arrest cavity activity in patients with ongoing decay risks.

The benefits of fluoride are enhanced when professional treatments are combined with daily home care habits like brushing with fluoride toothpaste. At-home topical fluoride strengthens the outer protective layer of enamel on a consistent basis. The occasional applications that dentists provide through varnishes or gels deliver deeper fluoride saturation over a longer period.

Together, both topical and professionally administered fluoride have synergistic effects that give teeth the best defense against decay. Their combined use has stood the test of time and continues to be internationally recommended for improving oral health outcomes in individuals and communities.

Who Can Benefit from Fluoride Treatments

Here is who might benefit from fluoride treatments.


Children with their developing primary (baby) and permanent teeth receive especially great benefit from regular use of fluoride. This is because fluoride helps to make tooth enamel thicker and stronger as it is being formed. Children who have fluoride varnish painted on their teeth every three to six months by their dentist have shown up to 60% fewer cavities compared to those who don’t use it. Using fluoride toothpaste twice daily is also recommended from an early age to protect against decay over a lifetime.

Adults for Routine Cleaning

Adults who have a history of recurrent cavities or gum disease are also advised to continue using some form of daily fluoride protection. Once cavities or infections have occurred, the risk of future problems remains elevated compared to cavity-free patients. Fluoride helps strengthen remaining natural tooth structure as well as restorations like fillings. It reduces the odds of new decay forming around existing defects.

Those Taking Medication with Oral Side Effects

People who have a medical condition causing dry mouth also gain much from consistent fluoride therapy. Without adequate saliva, it is difficult to clear foods and acids from the mouth. Reduced saliva flow makes one highly susceptible to decay. Daily usage of fluoride toothpaste and twice yearly dental fluoride treatments provides an extra layer of protection for these at-risk individuals.

Wearing Braces or Retainers

Orthodontic patients wearing braces or retainers require diligent oral hygiene to avoid cavities forming in tight appliance areas. Fluoride products and gels help remineralize enamel during the extended orthodontic treatment period of years. Daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste reaches these problem areas effectively. Dentists may also apply a bonding agent or varnish containing fluoride to braces for added resistance.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

One concern that may arise with fluoride is the potential for dental fluorosis, a mostly cosmetic condition where enamel becomes slightly discolored during tooth development. This occurs when children swallow higher than recommended amounts of fluoride from sources like excessively fluoridated water or fluoride supplements before the age of 8.

Wearing Braces or Retainers

However, the majority of fluorosis seen is very mild, appearing as barely visible lacy white marks, and does not impact tooth function. Moderate to severe fluorosis affecting the appearance is rare when fluoride products are used as directed under a dentist’s guidance. The benefits of caries prevention far outweigh the minuscule risk of fluorosis when the amounts are optimized for each community’s water source.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to fluoride are uncommon but possible in some individuals, especially those with allergies to other substances. Symptoms would be mild skin irritation or rash from direct contact with gels/varnishes during dental treatments.

People taking prescription medications should consult their physician or pharmacist first to check for any interactions as well. As with use of any oral health product or medication, following dosage and usage instructions carefully helps avoid potential complications arising from over-exposure.

Fluoride Safety

It is important fluoride be used as intended for maximum benefit and safety. Consuming toothpaste like food could result in accidental overdose for young children. Supervision during brushing is advised until kids are old enough to spit out toothpaste on their own. Only a pea-sized amount for children under 3 years old should be used.

Rinsing with water after brushing or any other topical fluoride therapy is also recommended to avoid unintended swallowing. Sticking to recommended frequencies of professional applications and home care habits ensures teeth get sufficient protection from decay without health risks. With proper care under dental guidance, fluoride has proven to be both highly effective and quite safe for improving oral health on a population-wide basis.

Need a Fluoride Treatment?

The use of fluoride has revolutionized oral health outcomes over the past century. When used as an integral part of a proper home care routine and regular dental visits, fluoride treatments provide excellent protection against tooth decay for people of all ages. Both topical and professionally applied forms have robust scientific evidence demonstrating their safety, effectiveness, and significant reduction of cavities.

White Pine Family Dentistry has been providing professional dental care and fluoride treatments to patients for several years in Hamilton, ON. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

White Pine Family Dentistry