Do adults really need fluoride? And why would the dentist recommend fluoride to an adult? Will fluoride help my teeth if I am over 20 years old?
Here we explain why fluoride my be helpful to adults as well as children. Then we explain why, how, and when we recommend flouride to adults in our Rock Hill, SC dental office.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter. Rocks, soil, and water all naturally contain a small amount of fluoride. However, this is not enough to prevent tooth decay.
For over eight decades, many communities have added nano amounts of fluoride to drinking water. Toothpaste and other dental products also contain fluoride in small amounts.
Researchers documented fluoride’s natural ability to prevent decay when they proved that people who drank natural water with one part in a million of fluoride had stronger teeth and fewer dental problems.
What does Fluoride do?
Fluoride helps keep teeth and gums healthy:
- Prevents tooth decay
- Strengthens tooth enamel
- Reduces harmful effects of plaque
- Repairs minor decay with remineralization
Fluoride remineralizes your teeth, especially at the gum line, where the tooth structure is softer. This protects gums around dental crowns, which end at the gum line.
For many years, dentists and physicians have recommended fluoride to help children develop healthy teeth.
Since communities began adding fluoride to water in 1945, dentists have seen a dramatic decrease in tooth decay in children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control named water fluoridation one of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century.
Does Fluoride Help Adults as well as Children?
The mineral fluoride helps prevent caries (tooth decay) in people of all ages; however, children benefit the most as fluoride helps create strong teeth and enamel as teeth are forming.
Therefore, the dental profession encourages children to add fluoride supplements if children do not have access to fluoridated water. This is systemic fluoride.
Systemic fluoride only helps very young children, when teeth are developing.
Dentists recommend topical fluoride for children and adults who are at high risk for tooth decay. They get best results by applying a strong fluoride solution at the dentist office.
Topical fluoride helps adults as well as children.
Scientific Research: Topical Fluoride
The American Dental Association formed an expert panel in 2006 to evaluate the body of scientific evidence on topical fluoride. To inform dentists, the ADA published “Professionally Applied Topical Fluoride: Executive Summary of Evidence Based Clinical Recommendations.”
In 2013, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs published Evidence Based Topical Fluoride Chairside Guide. This two page guild summarized how and when to treat adults using fluoride in the dental office.
The guidelines for treating children under six, school aged children, and adults understandably differ. They consider the safety different types of solution as well as the benefit to developing vs. adult teeth.
Guide Summary: Treating Adults with Fluoride
The American Dental Association Guide covers dentists using fluoride with adult patients:
Use Fluoride for adults with elevated risk of developing caries.
The ADA makes it clear that patients with low caries risk may not receive additional benefit from topical fluoride application. Thus strong, healthy teeth will improve with regular fluoride use.
The 2006 study defined low risk as no cavitated carious lesions during the last three years and no factor that may increase caries risk.
The study’s panel defined moderate risk and high risk patients as those who had carious lesions in the last three years and one or multiple factors that may increase caries risk.
Dentists should prescribe fluoride only to patients who are at risk for decay.
Evaluate individual risk factors for developing caries.
Factors increasing risk may include, but are not limited to:
- Poor oral hygiene or inability to care for teeth
- Poor family dental health
- Eating disorders
- Drug/alcohol abuse
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Enamel defects or genetic abnormality of teeth
- Exposed root surfaces
- High cariogenic bacteria levels
The factors alone do not determine fluoride use; rather the dentist is to determine each patient’s caries risk level based on his knowledge of the patient’s oral health and ability to care for teeth.
Apply fluoride for patients based on age and home care.
Generally, patients older than 18 benefit from 2.26% fluoride varnish at least every 3 to 6 months. This is applied by dentist. Or the dentist will apply 1.23% fluoride gel for 4 minutes every 3 to 6 months.
Dentists also prescribe topical fluoride agents for home use: .5% fluoride gel or paste twice daily. Moderate risk patients may benefit from .09% fluoride mouth rinse daily.
Dentists see the best results with varnish applied at the office due to the higher fluoride strength and the application process.
Fluoride for Adults: Cranford Dental in Rock Hill, SC
Our dentists have seen a drastic reduction in decay rate for adults who used prescription strength fluoride. Our biggest reasons to recommend fluoride to patients over 18 are dry mouth, high decay rate, and multiple restorations.
In these patients, there are problems which make it hard for them to halt decay with brushing, flossing, and rinsing mouth.
We are a preventive dental practice; thus we expect patients to avoid higher cosmetic dental treatments by staying on track with good dental care.
For adults who struggle with dental decay, fluoride is an important part of their dental care routine. Using it, along with other preventive procedures, will keep teeth healthy and strong.
At Cranford Dental, we have a five prong approach to protect your teeth:
- Drink plenty of water. Keep water by your bed at night. Avoid soda and sweet tea.
- Brush and rinse, 3 times per day minimum.
- Never suck on peppermints, hard candies, or cough drops to relieve dry mouth.
- Brush on a prescription fluoride gel (Prevident, Fluridex) for two minutes each night when needed.
- Visit your hygienist on a regular basis.
Contact our office if you think fluoride should be added to your dental care routine. We would be happy to help you. We love to get new patients started on a preventive care plan to keep teeth healthy.
With good care, teeth will last a lifetime. If fluoride will help you avoid decay and protect your teeth, you will want to make this small investment. You will want to halt the long term damage of dental decay.
For adults who need it, fluoride is an important part of a preventive care plan.