What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, is the biggest defense against tooth decay.  It’s present in almost all foods and water supplies, and for over half a century, health professionals have praised its benefits and recommended its use.

Topical fluoride is what most people associate with childhood dentist visits.  Dental check-ups frequently include a professional application of fluoride, but it’s also commonly found in toothpaste and mouth rinse.  Topical fluoride seeps into the tooth enamel from outside, increasing the tooth’s resistance to decay.

Systemic fluoride helps existing teeth and those still developing under the gums.  It is found in a lot of foods and most community water supplies, but can also be prescribed as drops  or as a gel supplement.  Too much fluoride during childhood, when teeth are still developing, can lead to fluorosis (white spots on the teeth), so it’s important to limit the amount of fluoride children ingest.

Dentists may recommend home and/or professional fluoride treatments for a variety of reasons.  Poor oral hygiene, history of dental decay, inadequate saliva, and exposed root surfaces are just some of the conditions that may warrant additional fluoride.

Remember: fluoride is not a replacement for good oral habits!  Brushing at least twice a day, flossing regularly, eating balanced meals, and scheduling routine dental exams are all vital to preventing tooth decay and maintaining a healthy smile.