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Topical Fluoride: How Fluoride Works

This naturally occurring mineral helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Our Chilliwack dentists describe how topical fluoride treatments work to protect your teeth.

What is fluoride?

A mineral found in all-natural water sources, fluoride is the ionic form of the trace element fluorine, which is commonly found in the environment. When it leaches from soil and rocks into groundwater, fluorine enters our water sources. 

When used as instructed by a dentist or within the context of a community water fluoridation program, fluoride is a safe, effective agent that can be used to prevent and control dental cavities (caries).

How is fluoride good for teeth?

Did you know that your tooth enamel is continuously going through a demineralization and remineralization process?

The loss of minerals from the enamel is called demineralization. This happens when acids (formed by plaque and bacteria in the mouth) attack the enamel. 

During the remineralization process, minerals such as phosphate, calcium and fluoride are redeposited to the enamel when we each certain types of mineral-rich foods or drink water. 

When teeth aren't remineralized enough (if you don't consume enough of these materials you'll need), tooth decay can occur. 

Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay by making our teeth more resistant to acid. It can also help reverse decay that has already begun, in some cases. 

For children younger than six years old, fluoride becomes incorporated into their developing permanent teeth, making it more difficult for acids to demineralize them.

When is fluoride intake most important?

It is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the timeframe during which the primary and permanent teeth are emerging.

However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. Topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in fighting tooth decay as they are for strengthening developing teeth.

Fluoride Treatment At Your Dentist’s Office

Sometimes, fluoride consumed via water and food is not sufficient to protect the teeth, and in these cases, additional fluoride application is advisable during regular teeth cleaning appointments.

While there are many over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes, these contain relatively low levels of fluoride.

Stronger concentrations are available by prescription, and your dentist can also apply fluoride treatment in stronger concentrations at your dental clinic.

Fluoride treatment at your dental clinic will typically be a one-time application of a gel, foam, or varnish solution. Varnishes are painted on the teeth, while foams are put into a dental tray and then applied to the teeth for a few minutes. Gels can either be painted on or applied via a tray.

Do you have questions about how fluoride works? Please contact our Chilliwack dentists today to book a consultation.


Tips From Our Team
  • Just like you, we recommend your child visit the dentist at least twice a year. This routine should start after their first tooth appears.
    - The Young Street Dental Team

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