Topical Fluoride: How Fluoride Works


Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Today, the dentists at Grasslands Dental Care explain how topical fluoride treatments can help protect your teeth.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that is found in all natural water sources and is the ionic form of the trace element fluorine, which is commonly found in the environment. Fluorine reaches water sources by leaching from soil and rocks into groundwater.

When applied as a topical treatment by a dentist, or when used as part of a community water fluoridation program, fluoride is a safe and effective way to help protect the teeth and prevent cavities. 

How is fluoride good for teeth?

Your tooth enamel continuously goes through a demineralization and remineralization process.

Demineralization is the loss of minerals from the enamel. This happens when acids (formed by plaque and bacteria in the mouth) attack the enamel.

During remineralization, minerals like calcium, phosphate, and fluoride are redeposited to the enamel when we drink water or eat certain mineral-rich foods.

When teeth aren’t sufficiently remineralized (if you don’t consume enough of the required minerals), tooth decay can result. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid. In some cases, it can also help reverse decay that has already begun.

When is fluoride intake most important?

It is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the timeframe during which the primary and permanent teeth are growing in.

However, adults can also benefit from fluoride. Topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in fighting tooth decay as they are for strengthening developing teeth.

Fluoride Treatment At Your Dentist’s Office

In the case of children with developing teeth, and for some adults, the fluoride consumed via water and food is not sufficient to protect the teeth and your dentist will advise an additional fluoride application. 

While there are many over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes, these contain relatively low levels of fluoride.

Stronger concentrations are available by prescription, and your dentist can also apply fluoride treatment in stronger concentrations at your dental clinic during your regular hygiene checkup

Fluoride treatment at your dental clinic will typically be a one-time application of a gel, foam, or varnish solution. Varnishes are painted on the teeth, while foams are put into a dental tray and then applied to the teeth for a few minutes. Gels can either be painted on or applied via a tray.

If you have questions about how fluoride works or are due for any preventive care, please contact our Kamloops dentists today to make an appointment.

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