The Great Fluoride Debate

June 9, 2018

Fluoride is a controversial topic in the dental field, which is why we’ve chosen to discuss it this month. Numerous studies show that when used as directed or when added to community water in the correct amounts, fluoride significantly reduces the incidence of cavities. A frequent misconception surrounding fluoride (which is perpetuated by insurance companies) is that only children will benefit from fluoride. Each individual regardless of age, has unique risk factors for developing cavities.

Our dental hygienists are trained to identify your risk for developing cavities, and evaluate this at each hygiene appointment. By determining this, we are able to recommend any additional supplements that would benefit you specifically. We always strive to provide individualized patient care; what works for one person does not work for everyone. See the table below for a list of risk factors that influence the likelihood of developing cavities.

Risk Factors for Developing Cavities
1. Active Decay
2. Visible Plaque
3. Exposed Root Surfaces
4. Three or more cavities in the last 36 months
5. Orthodontic Appliances
6. Dry Mouth
7. No Fluoride Exposure
8. Poor Dental Homecare
9. Failing Restorations
10. Special Needs
11. Chemo/Radiation Therapy
12. No Fluoride Exposure
13. Tobacco Use
14. Eating Disorders

Many insurance companies cover in office topical fluoride application twice per year. The problem is that many of them also put an age limit on this coverage, usually somewhere between 14 and 21 years of age. This leaves out the majority of our population. After your hygienist has determined your risk for cavities they may recommend in office fluoride treatment. If fluoride is not covered by your insurance, you really should consider paying for it. Paying a small amount for fluoride could prevent extensive treatment down the road.  Most people don’t look forward to hearing they have cavities, which is all the more reason to prevent them from starting in the first place!

Other fluoride recommendations may come in the form of a prescription fluoride toothpaste used once or twice per day or an over the counter fluoride mouthrinse such as ACT. Dr. Gile recommends MI Paste because it is beneficial for preventing decay, helps with tooth sensitivity, and rebuilds enamel. For children, their dentist or pediatrician may recommend a systemic fluoride supplement in the form of tablets or liquid. This form of fluoride has a big impact on developing teeth, and can strengthen them while they are forming. Systemic fluoride is particularly important for children whose primary drinking water is not fluoridated, including bottled or well water. Jefferson County does not have fluoridated water so it is especially important for our community.

If you want to know more about the benefits of fluoride or your individual risk for cavities, speak with your dentist or hygienist at your next appointment. We enjoy educating our patients and are always happy to answer questions and share our knowledge with you!



American Dental Association


Campaign for Dental Health



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