Cavities, also known as dental caries or tooth decay, are caused by acid-producing bacteria that live in plaque and food debris. When good oral hygiene habits are not kept, plaque begins to collect around the teeth where it can start to damage both the teeth and gums.
To keep teeth healthy and prevent any dental problems, including cavities, brushing twice a day and flossing daily is necessary. Regular dental exams and cleanings are also an important step to keeping teeth healthy. Another part of good oral health is fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps to strengthen and repair tooth enamel. It can also help to prevent cavities. It can be obtained in two different forms: topical and systemic. Systemic fluorides are those that are swallowed, such as those found in fluoridated water (most public sources of water are now fluoridated), certain foods, and fluoride supplements. To maximize the benefits of your fluoride treatment, it is best to receive it both systemically and topically.
Topical fluorides are applied directly to the tooth surface through products such as fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses. Dental offices also provide fluoride treatments. If you or a family member are at moderate-to-high risk of dental cavities, a professional fluoride treatment may be recommended by your dentist. Young children especially can benefit from this treatment. The fluoride preparation used by dentists is in a much stronger concentration than what is found in products available at stores or pharmacies.
Fluoride treatments usually take just a few minutes to complete. Fluoride can be applied as a solution, gel, foam, or varnish. The teeth are first prepared by being cleaned thoroughly and dried. The fluoride is typically applied with a cotton swab or brush. You can also use it as a rinse or place it in a tray that is held on the teeth for several minutes.
Following the treatment, the teeth will be ready to use again, but you may be asked to not rinse, eat, or drink anything for at least 30 minutes to allow the mineral to fully absorb into the teeth. In this time, the fluoride will start to repair microscopic carious areas.
Fluoride treatments may be recommended for reapplication every three, six, or 12 months, depending on each patient’s oral health status.
Dr. Thaer Al Azzawi graduated from MSA University in 2010 and practiced dentistry overseas for several years before immigrating to the United States. He then graduated from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine with Awards for Excellence in 2015 with awards for excellence. His professional affiliations include the ADA, TDA and GHDS.