Fluoride is a natural mineral found in food and water which helps to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay, by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque and sugars. If fluoride is lacking from the diet, the teeth will be prone to tooth decay and cavities.
The hard outer surface of the tooth is called ‘enamel’, which contains mineral crystals. Everyday plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth attack the enamel causing it to weaken. This process is called ‘demineralisation’. Minerals such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate from the food and water we consume and the toothpaste we use, helps to strengthen the enamel. This process is called ‘remineralisation’. Fluoride speeds up the remineralisation process.
Fluoride intake is very important when teeth are developing; it can be taken into the body in two ways –
- The food and drink we consume or supplements.
- Fluoride toothpaste, mouthwashes or when applied directly to the teeth by the dentist or hygienist.
Fluoride treatments are offered to children who have a number of cavities or are at high risk of developing cavities. Adults can benefit too. Fluoride treatment is a very simple process administered by the dentist or dental hygienist which helps to prevent tooth decay.
- The teeth will be cleaned to remove any food debris, staining.
- A high concentrate fluoride foam or gel is placed into an arch shaped dental tray which is inserted over the teeth and left for the required time. Alternatively, a fluoride varnish is painted on to the tooth surface.
- Nothing should be eaten or drunk for 30 minutes after the treatment to allow the fluoride to penetrate the teeth.
Fluoride supplements are available; please speak to the dentist to see which supplement is best for you or your child.