Topical fluoride is a preventive agent applied to tooth enamel at your dental cleaning appointment. It comes in several different forms. A dental gel or foam fluoride is placed in a foam tray and held against the teeth for several minutes, after which the child is advised not to eat or drink for 30 minutes. A fluoride varnish is brushed or painted on the enamel. Patients are able to drink or eat immediately after placement because of the sticky adherence of the fluoride solution. Varnish is especially useful for younger children who may not tolerate a fluoride tray or wish to wait thirty minutes to eat or drink.
Fluoride inhibits loss of minerals from tooth enamel and promotes remineralization (strengthens weak areas of enamel and initial stages of cavities). Fluoride also inhibits bacterial growth which prevents acid production of the bacteria that causes cavities. Risk for decay is further reduced when fluoride is used in combination with a healthy diet and proper dental hygiene.
Fluorideis a compound that contains fluorine, a natural element. Small amounts of fluoride used on a frequent basis helps prevent tooth decay. In areas where fluoride does not occur naturally, it may be added to community water supplies. Research shows community water fluoridation has lowered decay rates by over 50%, which means that fewer children grow up with cavities. Fluoride can be found as an active ingredient in many dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, gels and varnish.
Is Fluoride safe?
How does Fluoride work?
Being aware of a child’s potential sources of fluoride can help parents prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis.
Some of these sources are:
Too much fluoridated toothpaste at an early age.
The inappropriate use of fluoride supplements.
Hidden sources of fluoride in the child’s diet.
Two and three year olds may not be able to expectorate (spit out) fluoride-containing toothpaste when brushing. As a result, these youngsters may ingest an excessive amount of fluoride during tooth brushing. Toothpaste ingestion during this critical period of permanent tooth development is the greatest risk factor in the development of fluorosis.
Excessive and inappropriate intake of fluoride supplements may also contribute to fluorosis.
Fluoride supplements including drops and tablets, as well as fluoride fortified vitamins should not be given to infants younger than six months of age. After that time, fluoride supplements should only be given to children upon the recommendation of your pediatrician or pediatric dentist and only after all of the sources of ingested fluoride have been accounted.
Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially powdered concentrate infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Please read the label or contact the manufacturer. Some beverages also contain high levels of fluoride, especially decaffeinated teas, white grape juices, and juice drinks manufactured in fluoridated cities.
Parents can take the following steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in their children’s teeth:
Use baby tooth cleanser on the toothbrush of the very young child.
Place only a pea sized drop of children’s toothpaste on the brush when brushing.
Account for all of the sources of ingested fluoride before requesting fluoride supplements from your child’s physician or pediatric dentist.
Avoid giving any fluoride-containing supplements to infants until they are at least 6 months old.
Obtain fluoride level test results for your drinking water before giving fluoride supplements to your child (check with local water utilities).
What is Topical Fluoride?
Using fluoride for the prevention and control of decay is proven to be both safe and effective. In optimal amounts, it extremely effective in strengthening enamel. In excess doses, fluoride can cause a condition called fluorosis. Fluorosis is usually mild with white specks on the teeth that are unnoticeable. In severe cases of fluorosis, the enamel may be pitted with brown discolorations.
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