Fluoride is simply a mineral that contributes to oral health by making teeth more resistant to acid produced by bacteria that can cause tooth decay. It helps promote remineralization of tooth enamel in people of all ages, and it’s especially important for children aged six years and younger for the strengthening of permanent teeth as they develop.
In the United States, local water supplies contain fluoride, as do many foods. Most people get enough fluoride to promote healthy teeth from food, water and fluoride toothpastes. But if you or your child are susceptible to tooth decay, fluoride treatments in a dentist’s office may help promote healthy teeth and reduce your risk of tooth decay.
If you have a fluoride treatment at the dentist’s office, your dental hygienist will apply fluoride directly to your teeth in the form of a varnish that is painted onto the teeth, or in the form of a gel or foam that is placed in a mouth tray and applied to the teeth for one to four minutes. In addition, your dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements in the form of liquid or tablets for you to take at home.
Fluoride and fluoride treatments have been shown to be safe when used as directed, but be sure to keep fluoride supplements away from children, and supervise children when they brush their teeth to make sure that they spit out toothpaste and don’t swallow it.