The maintenance of optimum oral health includes regular dental visits and cleanings and great home care. Another key factor towards excellent oral health is the use of fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that slows down the progression of dental caries or tooth decay. The correct and timely use of fluoride can prevent dental cavities or tooth decay and can reverse the very initial stages of dental carries. There are two ways that teeth can benefit from fluoride: topical and systemic. Topical fluoride is available over the counter in drug stores in fluoride-containing tooth pastes and mouth rinses. The other way to do topical fluoride is in your dentist’s office at your regular visits, where the hygienist will apply fluoride at the end of your cleaning. This can be done in a tray containing fluoride gel, foam, or fluoride varnish. The ADA recommends fluoride for everyone every six months starting from the first dental visit up to age fourteen, even though you use fluoride-containing tooth pastes and mouth rinses and have fluoridated water in your area. This is because there is not as much fluoride in tooth paste and mouth rinses, and you may not drink enough water to get the full benefit of fluoride.
After the application of fluoride, your hygienist will tell you not to brush, floss, eat, or drink for thirty minutes to get the maximum benefit. Some older children and adults can also benefit from fluoride if they are heavily prone to cavities. Systemic fluoride is available through fluoridated water in your home, or in grocery or drug stores. If you live in a town where water is not fluoridated, you should let your dentist or hygienist know so that you can get fluoride prescriptions, which can be filled in your pharmacy. The fluoride prescriptions are given based on your age and your town fluoridation and are typically taken once daily orally. Flouride prescriptions are recommended for babies as young as six months old, and can be taken up to age twelve or thirteen if there is no town fluoridation. If you have any questions or concerns about fluoride, please do not hesitate to ask your dentist or hygienist.