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How Does Fluoride Protect Teeth?

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As a hygienist, I get asked this question daily. There are two things I keep in mind when answering this question. Is the patient asking about topical application to teeth after eruption or are they referring to systemic benefits of fluoride for their child prior to eruption?

In the case of topical application, fluoride helps to remineralize weakened tooth enamel and reverse signs of early decay. Furthermore, through the process of remineralization, patients who experience tooth sensitivity will generally notice a decrease in symptoms. If their sensitivity doesn’t decrease with an OTC toothpaste, we have a prescription fluoride toothpaste that will do the trick.

In the case of teeth that haven’t yet erupted, fluoride taken in systemically benefit enamel by making it stronger and more resistant to decay. Studies have also shown that children who take in fluoride through foods and beverages tend to develop teeth with more shallow pits and fissures on the chewing surface of their teeth. Shallow pits and fissures lead to fewer cavities later.

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