Did you know that you gain and lose minerals from the enamel of your teeth on a daily basis? These processes are called “mineralization” – the process of gaining minerals, and “demineralization” – the process of losing minerals. Mineralization normally happens as you eat and drink. The minerals in your food and water deposit onto the teeth and take the place of any that have been removed via brushing or eating acidic foods.
Unfortunately, our diets are no longer as mineral-rich as they once were and we have added juices and soft drinks when our bodies were only designed to drink water. The acids in these juices and soft drinks strip away the minerals in the enamel much faster than any mineralization process can balance out. They also encourage the overgrowth of bacteria that are naturally occurring in the mouth, causing them to attack the enamel and weaken it. Regular fluoride treatments help to rebalance the mineral levels on the surface of your teeth and keep your enamel strong.
Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay by keeping your enamel more resistant to attacks by acids, sugars and plaque bacteria in the mouth. Fluoride helps to speed up the mineralization process and also disrupts the acid production. In children under the age of six, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of adult teeth, which will make it difficult for the acids to demineralize the teeth in adulthood.
Fluoride is often added to municipal water sources, so if you get your water from the tap or through your refrigerator, you probably have fluoride added and are consuming it on a daily basis. For most people, however, that is not enough and regular dental application is necessary. Those fluoride applications come in many forms, depending on their strength and concentrations as well as what is best for each individual. Fluoridated toothpastes and mouth washes are common and available at most stores, higher concentrations will need to be prescribed.
Here at Cadena Family Dentistry, we focus on the gel or varnish forms of fluoride that are easily applied to the teeth during routine cleanings. Gels can be either applied directly onto the teeth or can be put into a mouth guard which you wear for a few minutes. Varnishes are painted onto the tooth almost like a nail polish onto a nail. The procedure is a painless and routine way to fortify the enamel of your tooth to help decrease sensitivity, reverse slight decay, and to help prevent further damage.
While fluoride is important for all of our patients in order to keep their enamel as strong as possible, there are some conditions which will make fluoride treatment even more important in an individual’s dental health. Patients with crowns, bridges or braces will require extra fluoride treatments to help prevent decay where the appliance meets the natural tooth. Patients who have a history of oral disease or decay like cavities or gingivitis can benefit from the extra protection that fluoride treatments offer. Finally, any patient who experiences dry mouth will do well with fluoride treatments. Dry mouth conditions can be caused by underlying conditions, but are more commonly a side effect of medications like those used for allergies, anxiety and high blood pressure.