Fluoride is a natural substance that helps strengthen teeth and prevent decay in patients of all ages. Naturally, it is found in water sources and certain foods such as meat, fish and eggs. As a supplement it is available in toothpastes, vitamins, rinses and professional treatments from dentists. Sufficient fluoride treatment is most important for children, to ensure extra protection from cavities against their developing teeth.
Dentists may use fluoride treatments for patients who are at an increased risk of tooth decay, including those with:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Active cavities
- Eating disorders
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Poor diet
- Tooth enamel defects
Fluoride treatments are administered at a dentists office using either acidulated phosphate fluoride, also known as APF, or neutral sodium fluoride. It is applied to the teeth in gel, foam or varnish form, either in a tray or painted directly on the teeth. For most patients, the fluoride is left on for four minutes. Children may also be given fluoride supplements to take in small doses each day, especially if there is not a sufficient amount of fluoride in their regular water supply.
After fluoride treatments, patients should not eat, drink or smoke for at least 30 minutes to increase the fluoride's direct contact with the teeth. Fluoride treatments are often repeated every three, six or twelve months, depending on each patient's individual needs.