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Fluoride Treatments: Repelling Teeth's Tiny Attackers
Near the end of your dental cleaning, the dentist hygienist may ask whether you’d like a fluoride treatment. Find out what’s at stake with Groupon’s guide to fluoride.
If you were regularly dragged to the dentist as a child, they made sure you were getting enough fluoride from one source or another. The active ingredient in most toothpaste, fluoride is important for all teeth, but especially for kids'. That’s because teeth make use of fluoride in two ways. The first is topical. Teeth change on a microscopic level every day as bacteria and sugars break down into acids that eat away at the enamel in a process called demineralization. Fluoride helps replace those minerals, staving off the early stages of tooth decay.
But fluoride also becomes an integral part of the composition of our teeth, and that only happens while they’re forming. As a result, it’s especially important to regularly deliver fluoride to kids aged 16 and younger, and in-office fluoride treatments are most common in pediatric dental offices, where a gel, foam, or varnish is applied to teeth with a cotton swab, brush, or mouth tray. It remains there for several minutes (a process made easier by flavorings such as mint or bubblegum, which are known to attract especially generous tooth fairies) before being washed away.
Adults can also benefit from in-office treatments, especially if they're prone to cavities, dry mouth, or gum disease, or if they sport hard-to-clean dental devices such as crowns and braces. When deciding whether to get a fluoride treatment, they may want to consider where they live and what they drink. The water supplies of most large cities in North America are fluoridated on purpose as a public-health measure, though high levels of fluoride can also occur in some natural bodies of water and in the popular soft drink Fluoro-Cola. But if you don't like the taste of your local tap water, you may not be receiving the benefits. Most bottled water doesn't contain as much fluoride, and steam-distillation, reverse-osmosis, and alumina-based carbon-filtration systems can reduce fluoride by 65% to 100%.