Fluoride- Do You Really Need It?

“Why do I need fluoride?” you may have asked your dental hygienist or your dentist. Fluoride is an element which occurs naturally in the environment; usually in the water. There are areas where fluoride occurs naturally in a very high concentration. This is how researchers discovered the benefits of fluoride, since the areas where fluoride is high, the incidence of dental decay (cavities) is low or non-existent. The Public Health initiative introducing fluoride to municipal drinking water has been the most successful public measure for reducing the incidence of a disease (cavities).

In understanding how fluoride works, its best effect is during the formation of tooth buds, long before the teeth erupt. However, additional benefits can be found when fluoride is topically applied to erupted teeth. There are several ways of achieving this benefit. The first, and easiest is through drinking water which is fluoridated. This is a low concentration (1ppm, which means 1 part per 1 million parts). This is the lowest level found to produce a positive effect. Before the days of the popular “designer water” bottles, most people in the US enjoyed this benefit. However, with the tremendous increase in bottled, or filtered water, the fluoride is usually filtered out. So, that benefit then is lost.

Back in the 1950’s, the toothpaste manufacturers started to add fluoride to toothpaste. This was a great design, as many people will brush their teeth daily, and this served as a great adjunctive approach to topical fluoride. The concentration is higher than in water, usually 1000ppm. Manufacturers have taken great efforts to ensure the fluoride in their toothpastes is in an “active” form; in other words, the fluoride ion can do its magic for the prevention or control of tooth decay.

With these two easy and readily available applications of fluoride, why do some people still get cavities? The answer is complex. It is a combination of physiology (which we cannot change), eating habits and hygiene habits(which we CAN control). If you continue to experience cavities, or you have a long history of cavities, your hygienist and dentist may recommend giving you a topical application of fluoride when you are in the office for a check-up. The concentration of fluoride is even higher, typically about 10,000 ppm. When this service is recommended to you, it is with a sincere preventive motivation on the part of your dental professional. Everyone will agree that it is a great feeling to go in for a dental check, and get an A++ (no dental work to be done); so a good, thorough preventive approach will help accomplish this result. The minimal cost associated with this procedure far outweighs the cost of cavities.

In general, there are three ways to increase the effectiveness of topical fluoride: they are 1. Increased concentration, 2. Increased frequency, and 3. Increased acidulation. When dental professionals recommend an in-office fluoride, they are using the #1 method of increasing the effectiveness of fluoride to decrease the incidence of cavities.

So, the next time you are in your dental office for a check-up, be active in your conversation regarding your home care, and the many ways to  lower your experience with cavities. Ask the question, “Why do I need fluoride?” Plan for what your dental needs may be in your future.  Remember that you and your dentist are partners in deciding your dental future. After all, what else can impact your life as much regarding your enjoyment of meals, your conversations, your smile and, don’t forget, your kiss!

If you like this suggestion for planning for your dental health , contact us for an appointment: www.cherry-creekdentist.com