For over 60 years the dental profession has been aware of, and an advocate for, the benefits of fluoride for the prevention of tooth decay.
In fact, the first study of fluoride in the public water system began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and lasted for 15 years.
After 11 years of the study, it was announced that the rate of caries (cavities) among the Grand Rapid children born after fluoride was introduced into the water supply dropped by 60%, revealing that tooth decay had become a preventable disease for over half of the country’s children.
This remarkable advancement in the field of dentistry lead to the well-established practice of child fluoride treatments during the routine dental appointments.
Dentists actively participated in “putting themselves out of business” by promoting fluoride, thus reducing childhood dental work.
Many dentists have recognized the advantages of fluoride treatment for certain adults.
The adults who most benefit from the treatment are those who have had crowns, bridges and other restorative work because fluoride extends the life of the work.
Patients who suffer from tooth sensitivity often will have relief from the sensitivity after the fluoride application.
Fluoride is also recommended for patients who suffer from dry mouth and patients undergoing chemotherapy.
I have long suggested to many patients a fluoride rinse that is purchased over the counter in the pharmacy.
Like anything else, the efficacy of this treatment directly correlates to patient cooperation – the patient must buy the rinse, follow directions, and make it a daily habit.
Another fluoride option for adult patients is the application of a fluoride varnish at the end of a routine prophylaxis (cleaning) dental appointment.
My hygienists routinely offer this treatment to patients who the dental team believe would benefit.
The fluoride is painted onto the teeth after the cleaning and dentist check.
The paste mixes with saliva and hardens.
The patient can eat afterward (with a couple minor restrictions), but should not brush for about six hours.
Although some dental insurance companies have recognized the importance of fluoride treatment in adult patients, many have been slow to add it to their list of covered services.
Please know that good dental offices will not recommend this treatment based on insurance coverage but rather on the need for it.
Luckily, this treatment is very cost effective and is a highly worthwhile preventative health measure.