There are major pros and cons for fluoride treatment, particularly for adults. On the one hand, the one percent of the U.S. population who have a fluoride sensitivity would definitely not benefit from fluoride treatment due to the debilitating side effects of fatigue, stomach pain and other issues.
However, for the majority of the population there are considerable benefits in taking fluoride treatment later in life. This is illustrated in Ontario where residents of Stratford with fluoridated water have significantly lower tooth decay than those in nearby Woodstock, which does not have fluoride in the water. These results are supported by many other studies on fluoride.
The Benefits of Fluoride Treatment for Adults
Just like calcium, fluoride strengthens teeth by bonding to the tooth structure to create a hard substance that is resistant to cavities and decay. Although insurance companies stop funding topical fluoride treatment for those over the age of 18, fluoride can be important in adults too.
Adults in later life have teeth that are showing signs of wear and tear. Crowns may be developing leaky edges and some teeth may have exposed dentine. These areas can be prone to sensitivity to hot and cold foods and are more susceptible to tooth decay.
Fluoride treatment for adults can help in two ways. Fluoride re-mineralizes the enamel, providing long-term protection against tooth cavities and root decay, which is particularly important in weak areas. In addition, the continuous exposure to small amounts of fluoride present in the saliva from topical fluoride treatments provides a constant supply of fluoride ions that help fight against tooth decay.
Fluoride Treatment for Root Decay
In later life, adult teeth are susceptible to gum disease and root decay. The root of the tooth is softer than the harder exposed area of the tooth; and if decay sets in, it is much closer to the tooth’s nerve than the biting surface of teeth. This causes sensitivity and makes an expensive root canal more likely in later life.
These are all good reasons to consider a topical fluoride treatment, which can be applied by your dentist after cleaning. The fluoride is absorbed to strengthen the de-mineralized areas of tooth, minimizing the risk of tooth decay, cavities and root canal surgery.
Those Most Likely to Benefit from Fluoride Treatment for Adults
For adults who are at high risk of developing cavities, fluoride treatment may be a recommended treatment. Those with receding gums, which exposes more of the tooth root, are good candidates for topical fluoride treatment as are adults who have crowns and bridges which can wear the tooth around the margins.
Some medications and radiation treatment for cancer can cause a dry mouth as a side effect. Lack of saliva tends to increase the risk of cavities, making it more important to take precautions such as fluoride treatment for adults.
If any of these conditions apply to you, then the next step is to ask your dentist whether a fluoride treatment would be beneficial for you.