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Topical Fluoride: At Home and in the Dental Office

Why Topical Fluoride

Everyone is familiar with the dental advantages of fluoride supplements, systemically administered to children while their teeth are forming. Research on this type of fluoride treatment shows a 35% reduction in tooth decay. The use of fluoride to reduce and eliminate decay is one of the most highly studied and documented public health measures yet. In this office, we have recommended this 4-minute tray-type fluoride delivery at least twice a year, usually after your periodic dental hygiene recare appointment. We have found that this type of preventive aid does four things:

  • Reduces the solubility of enamel to acid attack, making the teeth more resistant to decay
  • Aids in remineralizing the tooth enamel where decay has just begun
  • Longer-term, daily use reduces tooth sensitivity to temperature changes
  • Reduces the surface tension of the enamel so that plaque does not easily adhere to the tooth

Recent research has also shown that you can benefit from a nonprescription topical fluoride rinse, especially if you use it faithfully every day. There is, in addition, a reduction in decay seen if you have the stronger concentration topical fluoride that we use in this office. It is applied four times each year. Decay reduction can be as high as 30%! If you have had recent active decay, no matter what your age, we will recommend this routine for you.

Special Fluoride Applications

Another option for topical fluoride is available to patients with tooth or root sensitivity, higher and chronic decay levels, root decay, or dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia). If you have been diagnosed with any of these dental problems, we will make custom fluoride trays for you. We will then either prescribe or dispense a high-concentration fluoride gel product for you to use nightly in the tray.

The instructions are simple. Dry your teeth as much as possible, either with a gauze square or washcloth or by sucking air through your teeth. The fluoride will work better if the teeth are not quite so wet. Since trays fit closely to the teeth, place a small amount of fluoride gel into the tray every few teeth, and then place the trays into your mouth. Spit out the excess. If you notice an excess of fluoride, place a smaller amount in the trays at your next application. Leave the trays in place for minutes. Then, take the trays out. Spit out the saliva and fluoride that remains. Do not eat or drink for _minutes.

The number of weeks that you will need to apply tray fluoride in this manner depends on your oral condition. If diminished salivary flow has caused an increase in your decay rate, you will need to follow this procedure until saliva flow returns to normal. In the case of sensitive teeth, you will need to follow this procedure until the sensitivity is reduced. However, please note: sensitivity reduction is usually a gradual process; do not expect overnight improvement. Root desensitization may also require that additional materials be placed over the area as an adjunct procedure.

If you have any questions about the use of topical fluorides in the home or dental office, please feel free to ask us.