Fluoride can be used during your routine home care to reduce cavities and prevent tooth decay. However, some patients are concerned about the health effects of using fluoride. Make the decision for yourself with our outline of fluoride use and alternatives.
The first thing you need to do is understand your risk. Not everyone needs extra fluoride; fluoride is added to many water sources and is found naturally in others. Many people will simply purchase an over the counter toothpaste with fluoride added but others might need extra fluoride which can be administered at your dentist’s office. Fluoride that is applied topically is much more effective than fluoride that is ingested, ask your dentist about topical fluoride as opposed to supplements.
Teeth that have just formed have more capacity to take in fluoride and are also at a higher risk for decay.
There are several ways to apply fluoride:
With this method, your dentist or hygienist will place fluoride foam in a soft disposable tray that fits directly over your teeth. You hold it on your teeth for about a minute, then spit out the rest and ; just be sure not to eat or drink for 30 minutes!
Sometimes fluoride foam is not recommended for individuals with white fillings or crowns.
A fluoride varnish is a more concentrated sticky gel which gets coated onto the teeth. The varnish sticks to the teeth for several hours, releasing the fluoride over time. You can eat and drink with the varnish on which make this a great choice for small children.
For people who want to cut out fluoride entirely, there are alternatives that can accomplish the same goals. Limited evidence has shown that non-sugar sweeteners like xylitol can reduce decay. There are gums, mints, and hard candies which contain this sugar alternative. Xylitol should be in the first three ingredients when picking out a good product.
Additionally, some dental offices offer a varnish containing chlorhexidine and thymol, both of which have been shown to reduce decay by limiting bacteria.