Fluoride Therapy – Dental Treatment

Introduction – Fluoride Therapy

Fluoride is an essential mineral occurring naturally in many foods and water. Every day, minerals are added to and lost from the enamel layer of tooth through two processes called as demineralization and remineralization. Minerals are lost from a tooth’s enamel layer as a result of attack due to acids formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. In remineralization, the minerals such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate are redeposited in the enamel layer from the foods and waters consumed. The imbalance between these two processes such as excessive demineralization without enough remineralization leads to damage of enamel and tooth decay.

Function of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. It can also reverse already existing decay in early stages. In children under the age of 6 years, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth. Therefore, their demineralization is difficult. Fluoride also augments remineralization and disrupts the acid production in already erupted teeth of both children and adults.

Various forms of Fluoride Available:

  1. The most important source of fluoride is in foods and water.
  2. It can also be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. Mouth rinses containing fluoride in lower strengths are available over-the-counter, but stronger concentrations require a prescription.
  3. The fluoride can be applied to the teeth at office of the dentist as gel, foam or varnish. These forms contain a much higher level of fluoride than regular toothpastes and mouth rinses. Varnishes are painted on the teeth. Foams are placed into a mouth guard, which is applied to the teeth for one to four minutes. Gels can be painted or applied via a mouth guard.
  4. Fluoride supplements are available as liquids and tablets, but they must be prescribed by the dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor.

Significance of Fluoride Intake:

  1. Exposure to fluoride is most important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months to 16 years. This is the period of time during which the primary and permanent dentition comes in.
    1. Adults also benefit from fluoride. New research indicates that topical fluoride (from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments)is very important in fighting tooth decay.

Fluoride treatment is important in people with some conditions which make their teeth prone for decay such as:

  1. Dry mouth conditions: this is also called as xerostomia. Dry mouth is caused by diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome, certain medications such as allergy medications, antihistamines, antianxiety drugs, and high blood pressure drugs as well as head and neck radiation treatment.
  2. Gum disease: this is also called as gingivitis. It can expose more of the tooth and tooth roots to bacteria leading to risk of decay.
  3. People having history of frequent cavities.
  4. Presence of appliance such as crowns, bridges or braces: in these cases, the teeth are at risk for decay at the point where the crown meets the underlying tooth structure or around the brackets of appliances.

Risks Associated With Fluoride Use

Fluoride is safe and effective when used as directed but can be hazardous at high doses.Therefore, all treatment in children with fluoride-containing products should be supervised and fluoride products should be out of reach of children under the age of 6.

Side effects:

Function of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth.
Damage to the tooth’s enamel can occur leading to white specks, streaks or even brown discoloration in severe cases. These defects are known as dental fluorosis and occur with excess fluoride intake in children younger than 6 years. Fluorosis is associated with naturally occurring fluoride, such as that found in well water. Tooth staining from fluorosis cannot be removed with normal hygiene. Professional-strength abrasives or bleaches are required to remove it.

Precautions with fluoride treatment:

  1. Fluoride supplements should be kept away from young children.
  2. Flavored toothpastes should be avoided as these tend to encourage swallowing.
  3. Only a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used on a child’s toothbrush.
  4. Parents should be cautious about using fluoridated toothpaste in children younger than age 6, as they are more likely to swallow the toothpaste.

- Link of interest: Twitter Fluoride Therapy – Dental Treatment.

 

This article is not medical advice nor a substitute to professional health advice. Always consult a doctor.

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