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  • Writer's pictureTinWai Ip

Benefits of Fluoride

Fluoride is in most of the things you use to clean your teeth, for example, mouthwash, toothpaste, etc.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is commonly used in oral health products and treatments. Topical fluoride varnish is a concentrated paste of fluoride that we usually apply to back teeth at most children’s check-up appointments. Fluoride varnish application helps teeth by providing additional protection against tooth decay and strengthening the tooth enamel. Here's how it works:

Remineralization: Tooth enamel is the white outer layer of the tooth and is composed mainly of minerals. When we consume sugary or acidic foods, bacteria, naturally in our mouths, produce acids that can attack and weaken the enamel, leading to tooth decay. Fluoride aids in the process of remineralization, where it helps replenish the lost minerals in the enamel and makes it stronger and more resistant to acid attacks.

Reversal of early tooth decay: In the early stages of tooth decay, when the enamel is demineralized but not yet fully destroyed, topical fluoride can reverse the process. It promotes the remineralization of the affected areas, repairing the weakened enamel and preventing the progression of decay.

Formation of fluorapatite: When fluoride interacts with the minerals in the tooth enamel, it forms a stronger compound called fluorapatite. This compound is more resistant to acid attacks than hydroxyapatite, making the enamel less susceptible to tooth decay. Fluorapatite also acts as a barrier, preventing the entry of harmful substances into the tooth structure.

Inhibition of acid production: Fluoride inhibits the ability of bacteria to produce acids. Bacteria feed on sugars and release acids as a byproduct, which can erode tooth enamel. By interfering with this acid production process, fluoride helps reduce the overall acidity in the mouth and prevents damage to the teeth.

Topical fluoride is typically applied in the form of fluoride gels, foams, varnishes, or rinses during dental visits. It is important to note that while fluoride is beneficial for dental health, excessive fluoride intake can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which causes discoloration of the teeth. Therefore, it's essential to follow the recommended fluoride guidelines and consult with a dentist for personalized advice on fluoride application for children.

“Why do dentists apply fluoride to children's teeth and not adult teeth?”

Dentists apply fluoride to both children's teeth and adult teeth, but the frequency and methods of application may vary. Here's why fluoride is commonly applied to children's teeth:

Tooth decay: Children are more susceptible to tooth decay than adults. Their developing teeth have thinner enamel, making them more prone to acid attacks and cavities. Applying topical fluoride helps strengthen their enamel and provides additional protection against decay.

Establishing good oral hygiene habits: Childhood is a critical time for establishing proper oral hygiene habits. By applying fluoride during dental visits, dentists can emphasize the importance of regular preventive care and educate children about the benefits of fluoride in maintaining their dental health.

Behavioural considerations: Children may have difficulty maintaining proper oral hygiene, including thorough brushing and flossing. Applying topical fluoride at dental appointments ensures that they receive a concentrated dose of fluoride, even if their brushing habits are less than optimal. It acts as a safeguard against potential gaps in their oral care routines.

On the other hand, adults also benefit from fluoride, but the focus shifts more towards maintaining the existing tooth enamel rather than its development. Adults usually have fully developed teeth and a higher risk of gum recession, tooth sensitivity, and root decay. Fluoride in toothpaste and mouth rinses is recommended for daily use at home to help protect their teeth.

Additionally, fluoride treatments may still be provided during dental visits if necessary, depending on an individual's specific needs and risk factors for tooth decay.

It's important to note that the decision to apply fluoride may vary based on a person's overall oral health, individual risk factors, and professional assessment by the dentist. Regular dental check-ups and discussions with your dentist can help determine the appropriate fluoride application for both children and adults.

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