The widespread use of fluoride to fight cavities has been the greatest breakthrough in the past fifty years of preventive dentistry. Fluoride can help prevent cavities by actually hardening the outer enamel layer of teeth, and it can even stop or slow down the growth of pre-existing cavities.
Most water naturally contains some fluoride, but many cities add additional fluoride to their water supplies to prevent tooth decay in their residents, especially children. When children are young and their teeth are forming, fluoride hardens the protective outer enamel layer, making it more resistant to decay. The use of fluoride in drinking water alone has dramatically decreased the incidence of cavities among school children.
Adults also benefit from the presence of fluoride in drinking water, as well as in oral hygiene products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses. Fluoride can rebuild the enamel layer of teeth to repair early cavities before they're even visible, and it can help to solve the problem of root sensitivity in older adults. Also, we sometimes prescribe fluoride rinses or gels to help eliminate germs that can cause gum disease.
We recommend fluoride toothpaste for all of our patients. We may also recommend supplemental sources of fluoride for increased protection, including fluoride drops, tablets, gels, or prescription toothpaste. We frequently administer topical fluoride treatments following cleanings in our office, especially for our young patients.
Fluoride is an important part of every prevention program. When combined with good brushing and flossing habits, fluoride can dramatically reduce the number of cavities in both children and adults.