Importance of fluoride
Dentists consider fluoride as the most effective substance for protecting teeth from decay. It is an essential mineral that helps to build stronger teeth and fights bacteria that attack the teeth and gums. Basically, it strengthens the outermost covering of the teeth and stops the growth of harmful bacteria. The fluoride reacts with the hydroxyapatite crystals of the enamel to form fluoro-hydroxyapatite crystals making them more resistant to acid attack by the microorganisms. This makes our teeth more strong and healthy.
Fluoride treatments for children
Fluoride application is a preventive treatment for children to protect their teeth from cavities. It is recommended for children aged 6 to 7 years because, at this age, the adult teeth start to erupt in the mouth. Beyond this age, children have a ‘mixed dentition’ which means they have a combination of both milk teeth and adult teeth. A child should ideally get a fluoride application treatment as soon as adult teeth appear in the mouth.
Generally, dentists recommend fluoride treatments for children between 6 to 12 years of age (children with mixed dentition). This treatment is to make the teeth stronger and prevent decay, not remove decay. Hence, they do not recommend it for patients already suffering from dental cavities.
How is the fluoride treatment for children done?
There are a few different methods to apply fluoride – most commonly in a gel form, or a varnish form. Either way, it is a quick and fully pain-free process. First, the dentist will clean all your teeth and place cotton rolls in the mouth after drying the teeth. This is to make sure that your saliva does not affect the treatment. The dentist then squishes out some fluoride jelly onto a colourful tray and keeps it in your mouth for about 4 minutes. Finally, they take out the tray and you spit the gel out.
You are instructed not to rinse the mouth for an hour after the application of fluoride. Also, avoid drinking water during this time. Take care not to swallow the gel and spit it out since ingesting the fluoride can cause nausea and other issues. After a couple of hours, you can eat and drink water. Depending on the type of fluoride application, the dentist gives you a follow-up appointment after a few weeks or months.
Fluoride helps reduce the risk of tooth decay
Studies have found that fluoridated water can reduce cavities by up to 40 to 60 percent. We use fluoridated water as well as fluoride toothpaste twice a day. In the right proportion, fluoride is extremely effective for preventing cavities. But if you take it in excess, there are damaging effects on teeth as well as the body. So it is important to opt for a dental fluoride application only with the recommendation of a dentist.
Excess fluoride during pregnancy
Our drinking water contains some amount of fluoride. If a pregnant woman is drinking water containing fluoride more than 1 PPM, the child’s teeth are likely to develop bright white to brown patches or lines on the teeth. These white patches are not cavities and are not harmful but hamper aesthetics. So it is very important for a woman to drink purified water during pregnancy to give her child the best dental care.