Patients of all ages can benefit from fluoride. It is a naturally occurring mineral, found in all sources of water, including springs, oceans, rivers, and lakes. Scientific research has proven that fluoride can help prevent tooth decay in adults and children. It works by increasing the acid resistance of tooth enamel. It can also help repair enamel in the earliest stages of decay, before a cavity is even visible.
This natural cavity fighter may be delivered either systemically or topically. Fluoride treatments administered in a dental office, and products such as fortified mouth rinses and toothpastes are topical. Ingestion of the mineral, usually through drinking water, provides systemic supplementation.
Infants and children benefit greatly from fluoride, as it helps the enamel develop stronger, with greater resistance to decay. However, excess amounts at this age can cause fluorosis. This condition is not harmful to the teeth or overall health, but it can cause faint white lines in the enamel. This can usually be avoided by keeping children from swallowing fortified products such as fluoride toothpaste.
In erupted (developed) teeth, fluoride aids in remineralization, which is how the body "heals" early signs of decay and weak tooth enamel. It helps healthy teeth stay healthy, and weak teeth grow stronger. At this stage there is no risk of fluorosis; it only occurs while enamel is forming.
Fluoridation of public water supplies began in 1945, with Grand Rapids, MI. Today, Over 70 percent of the United States population benefits from a fluoride fortified water supply. The (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that the fluoridation of public water is one of the ten greatest advances in public health during the 20th century. It has been proven to decrease decay by as much as 20 to 40 percent.
In addition to the benefits of ingesting fluoride, fortified drinking water and other beverages deliver topical treatment. The fluoride blends with your saliva, coating your teeth and gums. According to research, the greatest benefits are achieved with a good blend of topical and systemic fluoride delivery. Supplements may be recommended for children, particularly if they do not have access to fortified drinking water.