Fluoride Treatments

Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases and contributes to many days of missed school in addition to interfering with other activities. Fortunately, cavities are preventable, and fluoride treatments are an important tool in that effort.

Fluoride treatments make the teeth stronger and more cavity-resistant. Fluoride is particularly valuable when children lack environmental exposure to fluoride in their home water supply or when conditions are present that increase susceptibility to tooth decay. Our process of applying fluoride to the teeth is painless and convenient for patients.

Fluoride Treatments: An Important Role in Cavity Prevention

Fluoride is a remarkably effective tool in the battle against tooth decay. Up to 25 percent of cavities can be prevented by fluoride.

Some parents may think that their child gets sufficient exposure to fluoride through drinking water, but that is not always the case. Fluoridation levels are not adequate for cavity prevention in some municipal water treatment systems, and patients who drink primarily bottled water are getting no supplemental fluoride at all.

Fluoride Dental Treatments | Pediatric Dentist | Belterra Kids Teeth | Dripping Springs, TX

To make sure that your child is getting enough fluoride to prevent cavities, we may recommend supplemental treatments at their semi-annual exams.

How does fluoride work to prevent tooth decay?

Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it can still be compromised by acids present in the mouth, which lead to cavities.

When absorbed by the teeth, fluoride helps to disrupt the tooth decay process by combining forces with other elements ~ such as calcium and phosphate, which are already present in the teeth ~ to remineralize the enamel and make it harder.

All children may benefit from fluoride treatments, but this intervention is especially valuable in children who are more susceptible to tooth decay, such as those with:

  • Acid reflux
  • Genetic predisposition to tooth decay
  • Allergies
  • Certain medications
  • Orthodontic appliances on the teeth

In addition to taking advantage of fluoride treatments at our office, parents also should introduce a fluoridated toothpaste to their child’s oral hygiene routine when it is appropriate to do so.

How are fluoride treatments applied?

Our practice uses a fluoride varnish to give patients supplemental fluoride treatments. We brush the varnish on to the patient’s teeth, and the varnish hardens when it comes into contact with saliva.

Children can eat soft foods (cold or warm, but not hot) immediately after the treatment. Parents will need to wait at least 4-6 hours before brushing and flossing their children’s teeth, and the dentist may direct you to hold off on oral hygiene tasks even longer to give the fluoride enough time to act.

Although fluoride is generally beneficial to patients, we want to be cautious to avoid excessive fluoride exposure, which can result in a condition known as fluorosis.

Patients who have fluorosis may have stains or textural defects on their permanent teeth, which can be psychologically distressing although the integrity of the teeth remains intact. We will closely monitor your child’s fluoride exposure to minimize the risk of fluorosis.

Common Questions about Fluoride Treatments

Why do children need fluoride?

Children need fluoride both to prevent cavities in their primary (baby) teeth and so that their permanent teeth will be able to absorb sufficient fluoride before they erupt into the smile. Cavity prevention in baby teeth is important because children need their baby teeth to stay in place until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. Premature loss of the baby teeth can lead to an early eruption of the permanent teeth, which has lasting consequences for the smile. Additionally, when children get enough fluoride, permanent teeth are strong and cavity resistant when they begin to emerge.

Is fluoridated water safe for my children?

Leading authorities on children’s dental health, including the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, agree that fluoridated water is a safe and effective strategy for preventing tooth decay in children. In fact, the CDC has declared community water fluoridation one of the ten greatest public health advances of the last century.

When should my child start using fluoride toothpaste?

Parents should begin brushing their baby’s teeth with a toothbrush as soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines recommend a small amount of fluoride toothpaste on your child’s toothbrush beginning at age one (comparable to the size of a rice grain). Pre-school aged children (ages 3-6) should have a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste dispensed on their toothbrush.

Although your child should not get into the habit of swallowing toothpaste, the fluoride present in such a small amount of toothpaste will not cause any harm if it is swallowed. We recommend that parents treat toothpaste for young children like a “prescription” that only a supervising adult is allowed to place on the toothbrush. As a reminder, parents should continue to brush their child’s teeth until the child has enough dexterity and coordination to brush on their own. That usually happens around age 5 or 6.

How often are fluoride treatments recommended?

We will assess your child’s case to determine if any unique or specific factors indicate a certain frequency for fluoride treatments. However, the general recommendation is that children have a fluoride varnish applied to the teeth every six months when they visit our office for their regular checkup.