Preventive Dentistry: Fluorides

The incorporation of fluoride into the tooth enamel allows the tooth to be more resistant to demineralization by acid and ensuing tooth decay. Perhaps, the most predictable and consistent preventive measure in dentistry is the ingestion of systemic (enters the blood stream) fluoride up to about age 14. If your water district doesn't add fluoride to the water supply, your baby should be receiving drops of a fluoride/vitamin combination as soon as possible after birth. The first permanent molars are already calcifying by age 3 months. It is in this formative stage that the tooth will incorporate the greatest amount of fluoride. Studies have shown that fluoride will not cross the placental barrier, so pregnant woman no longer receive fluoride preparations. Systemic fluoride (at 1 part per million) is a safe and effective way to dramatically reduce dental decay, along with the cost of dental treatment. Please call your dentist's office to learn if your water is fluoridated, and if not, he or she will be able to prescribe the proper dosage.

Fluoride can also be applied topically to the surface of the teeth. This is usually suggested for children up to age 18. Topical fluoride application is also effective and recommended for adults with rampant carries (tooth decay, cavities), individuals wearing orthodontic appliances and anyone experiencing an extremely dry mouth.

There are a variety of alternatives for topical fluoride application. (1) Use fluoride toothpaste daily that has the CDA or ADA Seal of Acceptance. (2) Purchase over-the-counter fluoride mouthrinses from your local pharmacy (3) Visit your dentist's office. The dentist can provide a professional application of topical fluoride for your children at their regular check-ups. He or she can also prescribe a home fluoride gel and fabricate custom trays for its application when deemed necessary.

There are some precautions that should be followed. Do not swallow fluoride products. Do not give a fluoridated mouthrinse to a child under age 6. Supervise young children who are brushing with fluoridated toothpaste. They should use only a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste on their brush. Fluoride toxicity can occur if a large amount of fluoride is ingested in a short period of time. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain or increased thirst. If experiencing nausea, induce vomiting or drink milk. Call your medical doctor or the dentist's office immediately.