The topical application of fluoride is a generally recommended treatment for children through the age of eighteen and can be performed in a number of ways at your dental office.
Fluoride is an element that helps slow the progress of tooth decay by increasing the rate of enamel mineralization, and decreasing its demineralization. Mineralization refers to the process whereby essential minerals that support a hardened, healthy enamel, are resupplied to the tooth after loss caused by acid erosion. Acids from direct food consumption, and those created as a by-product of Streptococcus mutans feeding on carbohydrates in our mouths contribute to this erosion.
When the demineralization of teeth progresses without regular remineralization, the pores within the tooth enamel become larger, allowing more acids to penetrate the surface, and allowing further decay. Topical fluoride treatments help arrest this decay cycle by proactively remineralizing the enamel.
Most of us have had a topical fluoride treatment at some point in our lives. Generally speaking, the process involves either the application of fluoride via a foam or gel that placed in a disposable tray and kept in the mouth for a specific period of time, or via a varnish applied directly to the teeth. It is often recommended twice a year for children who have not yet reached the age of eighteen. After the age of eighteen, treatments can continue based upon a person's general oral health and the recommendations of a dentist. Some adults continue to have topical fluoride treatments for this very reason.
In a recent study, an expert panel established by the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs concluded that professionally applied fluoride treatments can reduce cavities in school-aged children and young adults. Specifically, it noted that a fluoride varnish applied every six months can help prevent dental decay in a typical child, and just two or more applications a year can effectively help high-risk patients from getting cavities. Another option recommended to prevent cavities in a child's deciduous teeth is to apply a dental sealant to vulnerable teeth.
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