Lancaster dentist Dr. Matthew Kingston explains how adults with certain medical conditions or medications can benefit from fluoride treatments
Smiles and Your Health Topics: Fluoride is Not Just for Kids
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in many foods and water. Each day, our teeth are exposed to plaque, sugars and acids from the foods we eat. These cause the enamel of our teeth to lose precious minerals, or demineralize, which makes the teeth more susceptible to decay. Minerals in our diet, such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate, act to reverse this process and replace the lost minerals through a process called remineralization.
The benefit of fluoride for developing teeth in children has been widely documented. But Lancaster dentist Dr. Matthew Kingston and the Healthy Smiles Dental team note that adults with certain medical conditions, or those who take some medications, can benefit significantly from additional fluoride treatments.
- Dry Mouth. Dry mouth often occurs as a natural part of the aging process, but can also be a side effect of certain medical conditions and common medications. Allergy medications, high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and anti-anxiety drugs can all cause a decrease in salivary flow. Less saliva means that less plaque and food is naturally washed away from our teeth, leaving more acids and plaque to demineralize the enamel and cause tooth decay.
- Oncology Patients Who Have Undergone Radiation Therapy. Radiation damages the salivary glands. Individuals who have received radiation treatment in the head and neck area may experience a lifelong effect of dry mouth. Once again, decreased salivary flow makes the teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.
- A History of Tooth Decay. Certain individuals have a genetically higher frequency of tooth decay and cavities.
- Orthodontic Patients and People with Multiple Crowns and Bridges. Brackets for braces can be difficult to clean, as are the areas where crowns meet the teeth. These areas are at higher risk for tooth decay.
For adults or individuals with any of the above conditions, supplemental fluoride applications can be administered by your dentist or prescribed for home use to help reduce the risk of demineralization and decay of the teeth, Dr. Kingston says. There are several ways to apply the fluoride, each with its own specific benefit.
- Fluoride Trays. Customized mouth trays made by Dr. Kingston are filled with a prescription fluoride gel and worn for a specific period of time. This is especially helpful for individuals who have had head and neck radiation therapy, or those who suffer from chronic dry mouth due to medications or a specific medical condition.
- Fluoride Gel. A prescription gel can be used after normal brushing and flossing to augment the remineralization process. This is helpful for patients undergoing chemotherapy, as well as those who suffer from dry mouth.
- Prescription Fluoride Toothpaste. Dr. Kingston frequently prescribes a higher-concentration fluoride toothpaste (such as PreviDent® 5000) for patients with a history of tooth decay, patients with braces, or patients who have multiple crowns.
- Fluoride Varnish. A one-time application of a viscous fluoride gel is applied to the root surfaces of teeth where gum recession has occurred. This method is helpful in reducing tooth sensitivity, as well as preventing root surface decay.
If you have questions about how fluoride treatment could help you, contact Dr. Kingston at Healthy Smiles Dental (717.945.7440). "Fluoride is an effective tool we use to help many individuals in Lancaster reduce their risk of tooth decay. When these supplemental treatments are used in conjunction with proper brushing and flossing, there is a significant decrease in dental disease. It's just one more way we try to help our patients maintain their healthy smile," he says.