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By Dentist Thomas E. Cooke Raleigh Cary Wakeforest NC

Fluoride is a basic mineral that is very valuable in tooth development and tooth protection (when used as dental fluoride). Although dental fluoride can aid in the development of harder tooth enamel which fights off decay well, too much of it can be damaging to the healthy tooth. Forty-three of the 50 largest U.S. cities add fluoride to their public water supplies to help reduce tooth decay. You can find out if your water is fluoridated by calling your local water district, or by having your water analyzed if it comes from a private well. Most well water samples show little to no fluoride. During the first 12 years of tooth development it has been shown that fluoride supplementation can significantly aid in tooth decay prevention by making the enamel more resistant to acid exposure.

Children and Dental Fluoride

When bringing your child to the Dentist, a common topic to discuss is if you have well water or city water. This question will help the Dentist to determine if your family is getting fluoride in your water at home. If you are on well water at home, the Dentist may request a sample of your well water and have it tested for the amount of fluoride in it. Your family can get fluoridated bottle water at the grocery store to solve this issue. Your Dentist may suggest a fluoride supplement in the form of a pill or drops that is given in prescription form. The dosage is determined by the age of the child and if the child is to drink any beverages that are fluoridated for example water at school. Because it is important for the developing tooth to have some fluoride in the outer layer for extra toughness, it is wise to follow this issue up to the age of 12. Exceeding the correct amount of fluoride can be dangerous to the developing teeth so it is important to have this carefully regulated.

• Adults and fluoride

Adults can benefit from a fluoride supplement if they have gum recession and are experiencing root decay. This is common among many adults and can be helped by getting prescription toothpaste from your Dentist. Prescription toothpastes designed to help adults with tooth decay have a high level of fluoride in them and can significantly change the outer root structure of a tooth to protect it.

• Patients with dry mouth and fluoride

If you are experiencing dry mouth from a medication or from seasonal allergies, then you should consider prescription toothpaste with a high level of fluoride in it. If you have had radiation therapy to the head and neck area, your salivary glands may have been damaged and could be causing you to have dry mouth problems. This will require a fluoride supplement in the form of special toothpaste or a paint-on varnish.

• Orthodontic (braces) patients and fluoride

Patients that have braces are more prone to getting cavities. They are also prone to getting white spots on their teeth that are from something called demineralization. This is the weakening of the enamel from the disturbance of the calcium level, which causes the tooth to get softer. These soft areas are more prone to tooth decay. Daily fluoride rinses are recommended.

• Fluorosis

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has stated that a condition called fluorosis exists and that it occurs by getting too much fluoride during the critical years of tooth development. Fluorosis is basically a defect in the enamel makeup, which creates a discoloration that is visually unappealing. This is from getting too much fluoride and it causes a weaker outer layer of the tooth structure. It is important to monitor fluoride levels during the ages of birth to 12 years old to prevent fluorosis.

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