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Fluoride for Your Teeth

Overview:

The outer layer and the crown portion of the tooth are covered with enamel. Enamel crystals are constantly being lost (i.e., demineralisation) and regained (i.e., remineralisation) on a daily basis. Demineralisation occurs when mouth acids eat away at the crystals of enamel. The combination of bacteria and sugar on the mouth causes this process to occur. The minerals contained in the saliva between meals that contain fermentable carbohydrates balances the demineralisation process by what is called remineralisation. The minerals that are re-deposited in the lost tooth enamel include fluoride, phosphates and calcium. When the demineralisation constantly outweighs the remineralisation processes, dental caries begin to form.

Fluoride can help the teeth by differing means: 1) when fluoride is available in the mouth, it has a direct effect on the remineralisation of the enamel crystals by causing the disruption of mouth acids produced by oral bacteria, in both adults and children; and 2) the consumption of foods and beverages that contain fluoride enter the circulation and can become part of the developing permanent teeth.

Fluoride Applications:

Fluoride consumed in the form of foods and beverages, or as supplements, enters the circulatory system through the stomach where it travels through the bloodstream and is available for tooth development.

Products that contain fluoride are directly applied to the teeth. These include toothpastes, fluoride mouth rinses and in-office dentist or dental hygienist application of fluoride in specially designed trays. These fluoride applications only take a few minutes, but higher levels of fluoride are present throughout the mouth several hours following the treatment(s). An addition, fluoride-containing foods and beverages act in a similar manner. This is due to the fact that the fluoride-containing foods and beverages contact the teeth in some manner, and the fluoride remains in salivary fluids.

In-office fluoride applications are most often applied in foam, gel or varnish form, although the gels and foams are more commonly used. These fluorides are at much higher concentrations than the fluoride in mouthwashes and toothpastes.

Pill or liquid forms of supplements containing fluoride are available with a dentist's or doctor's prescription. They are prescribed in children aged 6-16 years that live where there is no fluoridated water.

Fluoride supplements and/or treatments:

Children living in these areas that do not have fluoridated water, from 6 month to 16 years of age, will require supplementation with fluoride. Pill or liquid forms of supplements containing fluoride are available with a dentist's or doctor's prescription. Everyone should use toothpaste that is fluoridated, especially children. When a child less than 6 years old use fluoride toothpaste, you have to make sure that they don't swallow it, and that they spit it out. They should only place, or you should only place, a small amount of toothpaste on the brush, usually the size of a pea. Make sure when they are spitting and/or rinsing their mouth afterward that they do not swallow the toothpaste. If your child is prone to decay, make sure that they are receiving fluoride treatments, which will encourage remineralisation.

It is suggested that children use fluoride mouth rinses if they are six or more years old. These can be bought in many different stores. If your child requires a greater amount of fluoride, fluoride-containing gels and mouth rinses can be prescribed by the dentist. Make sure that you supervise your children carefully if they are required to use these fluoride products; and make sure that your children cannot reach them.

Is Fluoride Dangerous?

Fluoride is harmless and helpful when it is appropriately used. However, it may be harmful in higher dosages. If you live in an area that has fluoridated drinking water, the fluoride levels are always safely maintained and checked daily by qualified professionals. As previously stated, your children should be properly supervised by a responsible adult when using fluoride-containing products. Fluoride-containing supplements, whether pills or liquid, should be kept away from children, and should only being used in small amounts as prescribed daily. These pills or liquids contain 0.25-1 milligram daily, and is factored by the age of your child, as well as the level of water fluoridation in your living area.

The number of pills or liquid are limited by the dentist to lower the danger of overdosing, so do not hoard these fluoride supplements. If there are any questions about the risks of fluoride, you should contact your child's dentist or doctor.

Fluoride toxicity is usually based upon your child's body weight. The following examples have been included: 1) The toxic dose for a two year old child that weighs 22 lbs. equals 320 mgs; and, 2) the toxic dose for an eight year old child who weighs 22 lbs. equals 655 mgs. Usually, eight ounces of fluoride-containing drinking water contains approximately 0.25 mgs. For this reason, if fluoride-containing products or supplements are used in small amounts, the chances of receiving a toxic amount of fluoride is very slim!