Make the Most of Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride treatments, also called fluoride varnish, are an elective service offered during routine checkups and cleaning visits. Our dentists and hygienists recommend them for patients of all ages, but it’s up to the patient to decide whether or not to opt in.

To help you make the best decision for your smile, we’ll cover a few common questions about fluoride, including how you can make the most of your treatment.

1. What is fluoride, and why is it important in dental care?

Most people are very familiar with the word “fluoride.” You see it on your toothpaste tubes and mouthwash labels. You’ve probably also heard your dentist or hygienist mention this treatment multiple times. But you might not know what fluoride is exactly, aside from being an ingredient popular in oral care products.

Despite common belief, fluoride isn’t a lab-created chemical designed for dental care—it’s actually a naturally occurring mineral found in water, soil, and even some foods. The fluoride mineral strengthens and remineralizes tooth enamel, which helps keep teeth strong, prevent cavities, and repair early tooth decay. The average person gets fluoride in two ways: drinking fluoridated (tap) water and topical exposure from toothpaste and other oral care products.

The third way to receive a boost of fluoride is through fluoride treatment at the dentist. By electing to have concentrated fluoride applied to your teeth, you’re ensuring your teeth get an optimal and safe level of fluoride exposure.

2. Why do dentists recommend fluoride varnish?

Dentists love fluoride varnish because it’s a simple but effective way of protecting tooth enamel between cleaning appointments. Remember that acid exposure still happens even if you have superb brushing and flossing habits at home and eat a nutritious diet. Here’s why.

The mouth is home to a complex array of bacteria, and even the healthiest smile will still have very small amounts of bad bacteria lurking around. When these bad bacteria get their hands on specks of sugar or starches from food or beverages, they produce enamel-eating acids as a waste product. These acids are what cause tooth decay, not the sugar itself. This process is nearly impossible to prevent, as even a healthy diet completely composed of nutritious, whole foods still has natural sugars or carbohydrates.

Fluoride treatment is an additional step patients can take to maintain optimal oral health and give their tooth enamel a chance to repair erosion caused by bad bacteria before a cavity develops.

3. Only children and teens need fluoride treatments, right?

Parents frequently choose fluoride treatments for their children or teens, but adults tend to be less likely to do so for themselves. This might be because of a common misconception that post-cleaning fluoride treatments are only for children. The truth is fluoride benefits patients of all ages, whether they are eight or 80.

4. What is the fluoride treatment process like?

Receiving fluoride treatment is a breeze and only adds a few minutes to your normal hygiene visit.

After your checkup, a hygienist will thoroughly clean your teeth using professional tools and products. Once your teeth are sparkling clean, a fluoride varnish will be carefully applied to each tooth, covering the front and back. The varnish dries surprisingly fast and leaves a somewhat raised or sticky texture on the teeth.

Your hygienist will give instructions on fluoride treatment aftercare based on the fluoride product they applied. Following these instructions is important to ensure your teeth get adequate exposure to the varnish before it wears off.

5. How long until I can eat, drink, or brush after fluoride treatment?

The most important factor in fluoride aftercare is to give your teeth adequate time to absorb the fluoride. Most topical fluoride treatments take a total of four to six hours to do this.

As a general rule, you should wait a minimum of 30 minutes before drinking or eating. However, we strongly recommend that if you need to eat or drink, choose a cool beverage—ideally plain water—and only eat soft foods that don’t require much chewing. Hot beverages and crunchy or chewy foods can remove your fluoride varnish too quickly.

After about four to six hours, you can thoroughly floss and brush your teeth to remove any fluoride residue left on your teeth. You can also return to your normal diet.

Keep in mind that fluoride brands have different aftercare instructions. Follow their guidelines if your hygienist or dentist gives you fluoride treatment aftercare instructions that differ from the information above.

6. Can my teeth get fluorosis (white spots) from fluoride varnish?

An interesting question we often hear from adult patients curious about fluoride treatment is if it’ll cause white spots as a side effect. These white spots on the teeth are a symptom of fluorosis, a harmless dental condition that occurs when teeth are exposed to excessive fluoride. You might not know that adults don’t get fluorosis, as the condition occurs only during the early years of adult teeth development.

Side effects of fluoride treatments are relatively unheard of and would be much rarer in adults than in children. Your dentist will only use safe fluoride varnishes ideal for your level of oral health.

Ask about fluoride treatments during your next cleaning visit!

As an integral part of our focus on preventing cavities and other oral health conditions, our hygienists at Bloomington Modern Dentistry will always ask if you’d like fluoride following your cleaning. You can also take the proactive step of mentioning that you’d like a fluoride when booking your next preventive care appointment.

Schedule your checkup and cleaning with your dentist in Bloomington, IL, by calling our office or requesting a visit online.