We’ve all heard that fluoride is an important part of our oral health, but how do you know if you’re getting enough?
There’s fluoride in toothpaste, tap water, and mouth wash, and there are also treatments and prescriptions available from your dentist. It’s no surprise that many patients are confused regarding fluoride, where to get it, and how much they need.
Keep reading for our fluoride guide! You’ll find answers to questions like “Why is fluoride so important, anyway?” and “How do I know which treatments to use?”
Why Fluoride is Important for Your Teeth
Although you cannot see or feel it, minerals are constantly taken from and added to your dental enamel through processes called demineralization and remineralization.
Acids, which form as a result of sugars and plaque, demineralize your enamel, while minerals like calcium, phosphate, and fluoride remineralize your teeth. These minerals are important to oral health—when teeth demineralize faster than they remineralize, this causes decay.
Fluoride is particularly important because it helps reinforce your teeth and protect them against the acids that cause demineralization. If you catch decay early enough, an extra dose of fluoride can reverse it.
For children six and under, fluoride is especially important. If teeth are exposed to fluoride as they grow in, this will make them extra strong by the time they are finished developing.
What Fluoride Treatments are Available?
Tap Water: Many people are able to get exposure to the fluoride they need by drinking city tap water. Check out the CDC’s water system map to find out if your water has fluoride.
OTC and Prescription Pastes and Rinses: It is also available in toothpastes and mouth rinses. You can purchase over-the-counter fluoride toothpaste, and rinses, or your dentist can prescribe a paste or rinse with a heftier dose.
In-Office Treatments: There is also the option of in-office fluoride treatments. Gels, foams, and varnishes can be applied to teeth for 1-4 minutes, and then rinsed off. This treatment delivers the largest amount of fluoride compared to other sources.
Supplements: Your dentist can also prescribe a fluoride supplement in the form of a liquid or tablet.
How Do I Know if I Am Getting Enough Fluoride?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you get fluoride both topically, like through a toothpaste or rinse, and that you ingest fluoride, from drinking fortified water or taking a supplement.
The best way to know whether you’re getting the proper amount of fluoride is to ask your dentist. Several factors contribute to determining the amount of fluoride that is appropriate for you. These include whether your city adds fluoride to the water and how prone you are to decay.
Fluoride levels are just one of the many reasons why it’s important to visit your dentist for a check-up every six months. During your visit, your dentist will evaluate you or your child’s teeth to determine if additional means are necessary for getting the proper amount of fluoride.