The best way to avoid tooth decay and gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene. Taking proper care of your teeth at home and scheduling regular visits with your dentist are the keys to a healthy mouth. Cleaning your teeth appropriately on a daily basis at home to avoid plaque buildup is only one part of the plan. Seeing your dentist every six month for cleaning, exams, x-rays, and other screenings and treatments will ensure a lifelong healthy smile.
Fluoride is an element that occurs naturally in some foods and is added to public water supplies to help decrease the incidence of cavities. Fluoride strengthens the enamel, or outer layer, of the tooth, protecting it against plaque.
Today’s toothpastes contain fluoride, which is absorbed into the enamel during brushing. Fluoride tooth rinses also deposit fluoride, especially in the areas that are not easily reached during brushing.
In the dentist’s office, fluoride treatments are recommended for children every 6 months, or at the dentist’s discretion. The in-office treatments contain more fluoride than toothpaste or mouth rinses that are available in stores. The fluoride preparation may be applied as a gel or foam, using a tray that looks like a sports mouth guard. The tray stays in place for one to four minutes and then the fluoride is rinsed out of the mouth thoroughly.
After a fluoride treatment in the dentist’s office, the patient should not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes to ensure absorption of the fluoride into the teeth.
Fluoride should never be swallowed. Depending on the age and size of the child, excessive fluoride intake can cause poisoning. This will not occur using the recommended amount of toothpaste or rinse at home. If a child ingests a large amount of toothpaste or rinse, the parent should call the poison control center for questions. The National Institutes of Health recommend that parents take a child to the emergency room if they suspect the child has ingested a tube of toothpaste or more. Toothpaste and rinses should be treated as medications and kept out of the reach of children.