Fluoride in Water vs. Fluoride Treatment - What's the Difference?
There’s plenty of talk about fluoride – it’s probably in your drinking water and your toothpaste, it may be in your mouthwash, and your dentist might mention it during every visit, especially if you have kids. But what’s the difference between the low amount of fluoride you’re consuming every day and the fluoride treatment your dentist offers?
Before you dig any deeper, a little background on fluoride. It’s a naturally occurring mineral and a crucial ingredient of dental health. The hard, outer protective layer of your teeth, the enamel, frequently undergoes changes to its mineral content, and mineral deficiencies can lead to dental caries – also known as tooth decay. Fluoride is one of the materials that help keep this mineral balance positive and protect against the onset of dental maladies.
Fluoride is also especially important for children, which is a major reason its levels are boosted in many community water systems. For kids between the ages of 6 and 16, maintaining good oral hygiene is particularly important, as this is the developmental period for their permanent teeth. Dental issues that start at this age have the potential to last a lifetime.
While fluoride is present in many natural water sources – oceans, springs, and so on – the amounts present don’t always add up to an effective dose. So, since the 1960s, municipalities have opted to add fluoride to their drinking water. This ensures that developing youngsters, no matter their diet or dental hygiene habits, at least have a shot at staving off tooth decay. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed water fluoridation as one of the greatest public health improvements of the past century (since tooth decay is actually considered an infectious disease, it falls under the purview of the CDC).
The United States Public Health Service has concluded that the ideal level of fluoride in civil water sources is 0.7 parts per million. Prior to this, the recommended range reached a higher limit (1.2 parts per million), an amount that can be a contributing factor in cases of cosmetic fluorosis. Cosmetic fluorosis is a mild discoloration of the teeth.
The levels above, combined with good dental hygiene and regular cleanings, tend to be a good fluoride baseline for the average adult. However, there are a variety of reasons the over-16 crowd might need to take tooth care to the next level. This can include eating habits, as overdoing it on sugary food can lead to reductions in fluoride. A history of cavities can be an indicator of a fluoride deficiency, and existing dental work, like crowns and bridges, can be a magnet for tough-to-clean spots and tooth decay. Even a dry mouth – whether caused by taking certain medications or otherwise – can lead to tooth decay. In all of these cases, fluoride treatments can make a difference.
While there are a slew of over-the-counter products that contain moderate amounts of fluoride, sometimes that may not be enough. That’s where the benefits of fluoride applications at the dentist’s office come into play. Fluoride treatments are usually applied topically, and may come as a foam, varnish, or gel. The goal of these procedures is to help bring the fluoride-positive balance back to your mouth, keeping tooth decay at a healthy distance.
If you think you may be in need of fluoride applications to help prevent tooth decay, Signature Smiles can help you discover the best plan of action.