The application of fluoride is often used as a cavity-prevention measure. Here are a few questions and answers about fluoride to help you better understand its benefits and treatment options:

Why is fluoride used to help prevent cavities?

Fluoride is often applied to the teeth to help prevent the development of cavities because of the interaction that takes place between fluoride and other minerals when fluoride is placed in the mouth.

When fluoride is introduced into your oral cavity, it forms a coating on your teeth. On the surface of a tooth, fluoride attracts displaced minerals, such as phosphorus and calcium, back to the enamel. Then, the fluoride combines with these minerals to produce a new enamel material that is better able to resist acid than your original tooth enamel.

This is important, because most tooth decay that results in a cavity is caused by bacterial acid. Streptococcus mutans and other oral bacteria release acid as they feed on particles of food in your mouth that have remained after a meal or a snack. As a byproduct bacterial digestion, the microbes release acid.

How can you receive fluoride for your teeth?

At Home

Small amounts of fluoride are available in some of the foods and drinks that we consume. It is even a common additive to drinking water. In addition, most toothpastes are fluoridated. There are also specialized mouth rinses that include fluoride to help prevent cavities.

In Your Dentist's Office

In addition to at-home fluoride sources, there are fluoride treatments that are performed in a dental office. These treatments include higher levels of fluoride than at-home applications do.

In a dental office, the fluoride is applied to the teeth as a rinse, varnish or gel. It is allowed to remain on the teeth long enough for the substance to be absorbed by your tooth enamel. After the allotted time, the excess fluoride is rinsed from your mouth. In-office fluoride treatments can be performed periodically to help prevent cavities.

Can the use of fluoride be dangerous?

Fluoride is only dangerous if consumed in high quantities. Overconsumption can result in accidental poisoning. However, the concentrations of fluoride used in dental applications are generally not dangerous, especially since you are not advised to swallow the fluoridated substances. Additionally, the amount available in tap water and food sources is too low to cause poisoning.

To learn more about fluoride and its benefits, schedule a consultation with a general dentist in your area.