Dental professionals are encouraged to focus on preventing decay in children through professionally applied fluoride treatments to protect newly erupted teeth. For years, our office, along with most others, discontinued fluoride treatments once all permanent teeth had erupted. I often celebrated with my teenage patients, joking that they were considered "adults" at the ripe old age of 16, no longer eligible for the protective treatment they recieved for years before. But, what about protecting our adult patients' teeth? When the American Dental Association started to endorse professionally applied fluoride treatments for adults, we followed suit.
"I thought only kids got cavities!" Unfortunately, adults do get cavities, too! Decay is the result of plaque bacteria leeching minerals from an area on a tooth. Proper homecare to effectively remove this plaque is paramount. Kids who do not floss or brush properly are more likely to develop cavities than those who do. Adult teeth are no different. As adults our oral health is often complicated by new risk factors. These include: exposed root surfaces from recession; over the counter or prescription medications, diseases or conditions that reduce or change the normal flow or consistency of saliva; changes in dexterity that make brushing and flossing less effective; braces or mouth appliances; a high sugar diet and frequent snacking between meals; and existing crowns, bridges or fillings. Any of these can cause new decay, and in some cases, very quickly. Even adults who are meticulous about their homecare but present with one or more of these factors, are considered "moderate risk".
People on average are living longer. Most are keeping all of their teeth throughout their lifetime. Research has proven time and time again that exposure to controlled amounts of fluoride can significantly help to remineralize tooth structure and prevent new decay. We may not be able to avoid all the changes that develop over a lifetime, but our goal is to prevent the impact on your long term oral health as much as possible. Prevention is the key!
In office fluoride is applied as a thin varnish that sits on the teeth and, once absorbed, increases the density of the crystals that form tooth structure. Repeated exposure over time has proven to be a reliable way to protect kids teeth into adulthood. And it is a simple way to protect the teeth that we will rely on to chew and smile and speak with for the rest of our lives.