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Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride treatments (eg fluoride mouth rinses, varnishes,
gels and foams) help to protect teeth against decay and also
provide additional protection against acid attacks on the
tooth enamel. Fluoride slows down the rate of decay and
makes teeth more resistant to acid attack by remineralizing
them. It also reduces the amount of acid that bacteria
produce.

In the mouth these treatments create low levels of fluoride
in saliva, which reduces the rate at which tooth enamel
dissolves and increases the rate at which it re-hardens in the
early stages of cavities.

Fluoride toothpaste is the most widely used (and rigorously
evaluated) fluoride treatment although fluoride mouthwash
and varnish are also effective. Fluoride toothpaste reduces
cavities by about 25%.

Children who have fluoride when their teeth are developing
tend to have shallower grooves in their teeth so plaque can
be more easily removed.

A dentist or dental hygienist can apply extra fluoride to the
teeth, in the form of gels or varnishes. These are pleasant
tasting and are painted on to the tooth surfaces. The patient
should have nothing to eat or drink for 30 minutes after
application. Professional fluoride application 2 or 3 times
a year has been shown to provide additional protection
against cavities.

It is very important that fluoride supplements are only taken
on the advice of a dentist. There is a slight risk of Dental fluorosis if too much fluoride
is taken. This appears as very fine pearly white lines or
flecking on the surface of the teeth. Severe fluorosis may
lead to the enamel being pitted and discoloured. It can
happen when children swallow toothpaste or when too
much topical fluoride is applied. Recent studies carried out
for the government by the Medical Research Council have
failed to find any evidence that fluoride added to drinking
water causes harmful side effects. Fluoride in drinking
water has been shown to be very effective in reducing
dental decay. In the Tunbridge Wells area there is no added
fluoride in the water.

Fluoride drops and tablets are also available to under 12
year olds but advice must be sought from the dentist and
tend to only be used if there is a high risk of decay. Fluoride
gels and mouthwashes can also help prevent root decay
which can be a problem especially in people with dry
mouths, on certain medications and the elderly.