The Benefits of Topical Fluoride Treatment

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After more than 30 years, we recently were forced to replace our deck on our back patio. We knew it was bad when the deck gave way at our eldest daughter’s wedding reception as more than 50 people rushed out to witness the cutting of the cake, dropping more than a few feet, it was lucky no one was injured. Finally, several boards gave way revealing rot on all the posts and joists underneath. It was a lot of hard work to tear out the old and restore the foundation for the new composite decking that is so popular. This new decking is mold and mildew-free and requires little maintenance to last for many, many years.

The analogy reminded me of our mouths. As we age, our roots get exposed and are more prone to decay. Dr. Tom Orent has shared one of his “gems” to many of us dentists that I can relate to and I’d like to share it with you.

“Recent research has helped us to uncover one of the most devastating adult dental problems. The problem is known as “root cavities.” All adults are susceptible to root cavities.

One of the most respected dental researchers in the world says that once you get a cavity on your root surface, it’s like the beginning of the end of your tooth. Sure, we’ll try to fix it, but even after we think we’ve removed all the cavity or decay, it often creeps up again right under the filling or crown, and we have to cut it out further and further up under the gum near the bone.

The problem is, your roots are 1000% softer than your enamel! As an adult, you tend to have some recession of the gums — that’s when your gum drifts higher up the tooth and exposes some of your roots. Often early recession is so small it’s not immediately apparent and unfortunately, recession doesn’t have to be visible to put your tooth at risk!

The best prevention for root cavities is fluoride, and the best and most reliable fluoride delivery is immediately after your cleaning — due to the natural film layer (plaque) the body coats your teeth with within 24 hours after your cleaning. Again, the best time for fluoride is at the end of your cleaning as this natural film layer, a sticky substance, decreases the ability of the fluoride to penetrate into and protect your teeth.

In fact, we recently had a patient only 40 years old who lost a tooth due to this disease. The fact is that we had effective fluoride for many years, but they were so incredibly acidic and bitter-tasting that most adults refused to use them, myself included! The old fluoride took from five to seven minutes in your mouth and was pretty close to intolerable.

We are fortunate today to have fast-acting, high-strength fluorides that are extremely effective, but also taste great and require only 60 seconds to apply. I wouldn’t allow my family or myself ever again to have a cleaning without immediately afterward having the fluoride treatment as well.

Insurance doesn’t cover fluoride for adults but it’s like having your own insurance policy to help ensure you can keep your natural teeth for life. The charge is less than a third of one surface filling and we have several flavors to choose from.”

In summary, adults can benefit from topical fluoride treatment just as much as children. Fluoride treatments are an important part of keeping your teeth healthy and they help repair teeth in the very early stages of the disease. Existing restorations, poor oral hygiene or diet, or tooth enamel damage can all increase the risk for cavities. Soda and sports drinks also have a high acid content that can damage teeth.

The best way to prevent these risks as well as the biggest risk of all — root cavities — is a topical fluoride varnish application immediately following your dental cleaning. One of the many prescription-strength 5000 toothpaste at-home fluoride daily regimens is another great way to prevent this most unfortunate problem. If you have any questions about topical fluoride prevention treatment, ask your dentist or hygienist.