As a kid, the fluoride treatment was always the highlight of any dentist visit. You got to bite down on that oversized mouth guard filled with foam and suck in the sweet taste of watermelon or bubble gum. The fluoride treatment isn’t standard at the dentist as an adult – but that doesn’t mean that fluoride intake isn’t important to your overall health. In fact, its importance may be just as high in many cases for adults.
One of the main benefits of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay by protecting teeth against plaque, bacteria and sugars in the mouth. The reason fluoride is stressed so heavily to children is that is helps reverse early decay and aids in the protecting of teeth as they are still developing, preventing teeth from demineralizing. But fluoride helps people of all ages, and there are easy ways to get more fluoride into your system.
You may need additional fluoride if you have frequent cavities or recurrent dry mouth conditions. Even those with gingivitis could benefit from additional fluoride.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends adult males have 4 mg of fluoride a day and adult women should have 3 mg a day. For most people, drinking fluoridated water along with brushing with fluoride toothpaste is considered a sufficient fluoride intake. Many of the largest cities in the United States add fluoride to the drinking water for the purpose of preventing tooth decay.
But if you drink mainly bottled water or are just in need of additional fluoride, there are some easy ways to add fluoride to your diet.
Toothpastes and mouth rinses: There are many products available at your local drugstore that contain fluoride to help protect teeth. Various over the counter toothpastes and mouthwashes that are applied directly to the teeth tend to be of lower strength. You will likely need a prescription for higher strength fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes.
The Dentist: Those fun fluoride treatments you often received as a kid? They are available as an adult, too. Dentists can apply fluoride in gel or foam form, if they deem it necessary. Patients can also get a fluoride supplement or tablet if their doctor or dentist gives a prescription for it.
Diet: Drinking a sufficient amount of water – approximately 62% of Americans have access to a water supply with adequate fluoride levels - will help you get the fluoride you need to prevent tooth decay. In addition, most seafood contains some fluoride, as natural sodium fluoride is in the ocean. Many foods prepared in fluorinated water will contain some fluoride as well, and can add to your daily fluoride intake.
No one wants to have bad teeth. But fluoride also has other benefits, such as helping to maintain bone structure. So don’t think that fluoride treatments are just for kids. It is the key to having healthy teeth, no matter what your age.