Fluoride Treatments What are they and what do they do?

Fluoride Treatments What are they and what do they do?Seeing Dr. Goodwin and one of our fantastic hygienists two times per year is best for most individuals to prevent dental problems!

The dental examination is a when Dr. Goodwin will look at you or your child’s teeth and the x rays that have been taken of the teeth. These give Dr. Goodwin a picture of your oral and overall health. It helps identify problems of growth, cavities, and your overall dental health. After the exam, Dr. Goodwin will be able to help create a plan that will maximize your oral health.

Before or after the exam and x rays, your teeth are cleaned and flossed. Plaque (a sticky film that coats teeth and contains bacteria) and tartar (hardened plaque) are removed from the surfaces of the teeth.

In addition to your exam and cleaning, a fluoride treatment will be done. The fluoride treatment is an important part of your twice a year dental visit! Kids and grown-ups benefit from fluoride. A report from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) found that kids and young people who got fluoride treatments once a year were 43 percent less inclined to have dental caries (tooth decay).


Most dental insurances cover fluoride treatments for children and adolescents. Each insurance has different age criteria for fluoride, but the benefits are not limited to children and adolescents. Adults benefit from fluoride treatments to keep their teeth strong and healthy. As adults age, gums may recede and expose the roots of the tooth/teeth. Fluoride helps protect the roots from decay.

For those whose insurance does not cover fluoride, we offer an out of pocket fluoride treatment for only $15/person. (Many offices charge $25-$30 per fluoride treatment.) We try to keep the costs very low so that patients will be able to afford fluoride.

Dr. Goodwin and our hygienists encourage everyone to have fluoride at least once a year! WHAT IS FLUORIDE?

Fluorides are compounds that combine the element fluorine with another substance, usually a metal. Examples include sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride, and fluoride monofluorophosphate (MFP fluoride).

Some fluorides occur naturally in soil, air, or water, although the levels of fluoride can vary widely. Just about all water has some fluoride. In many cities, fluoride is added in water treatment plants in many cities where the fluoride level is too low. Fluoride is also found in many plant and animal food sources.

Once inside the body, fluorides are absorbed into the blood through the digestive tract. They travel through blood and tend to collect in areas high in calcium, such as the bones and teeth.


Before fluoride was added to toothpaste, research found that individuals with fluoridated water were 40 to 60 percent less inclined to get holes. Since 1962, the ADA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention prescribe the addition of fluoride to drinking water. The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) monitors and regulates the levels of fluoride in city water sources in the United States.

Fluoride molecules bind to tooth enamel and bones to strengthen and reinforce the structure of the tooth and bones in the body. It helps build healthy teeth and strengthens bones. Stronger teeth are important in the against microbes (bacteria) that hurt teeth and gums.

The enamel layer of the tooth is the outside, defensive layer. It is the shield of our teeth that protects the softer parts of the tooth from the microorganisms that create cavities. Many people say that they have “soft teeth” and are “more prone to cavities”. Fluoride strengthens “soft teeth” and helps prevent cavities. If the enamel is strong and without cracks or holes, cavities have a harder time forming.

Cavities happen when microscopic organisms develop on teeth and gums and structure a sticky layer of plaque. Plaque creates a corrosive that disintegrates teeth and gum tissue. If the plaque creates a crack or hole in the enamel layer, microscopic organisms can contaminate and eventually eat their way to the nerves and blood at the center of the tooth. Once the microorganisms are to the nerve and blood supply, infection can set in and destroy the tooth. When the nerve and blood supply are infected, pain (sometimes severe) occurs. The tooth then needs a root canal to remove the infection and remove the source of the pain.


Non-Prescription Fluoride:

Most toothpastes available have fluoride added to the formula. The non-prescription formula is a lower concentration of fluoride. This is non-prescription formula of fluoride that is safe to use every day without side effects. Small children should be monitored when using toothpaste so that small amounts are used, and that the toothpaste is not swallowed but is spit out after use.

Fluoride rinses are available in most supermarkets. These rinses have a lower concentration of fluoride than prescription fluoride rinses and can be used by patients on a daily basis. As with toothpaste, fluoride rinse use in small children should be monitored to ensure that they don’t swallow the rinse but spit it out after use.

Prescription (Professional) Fluoride:

Prescription fluoride is a stronger concentration of fluoride and must be used under the direction of a doctor or dentist. Prescription fluoride can come in the form of foam, gel, varnish, rinses, toothpastes and pills.

At least once a year, a fluoride treatment with prescription strength fluoride should be done. In our office this treatment can be as fluoride foam, gel or fluoride varnish. The fluoride foam or gel is place in trays and the teeth are “soaked” in the fluoride solution for several minutes. Unfortunately, the foam mixes with spit that dilutes the concentration of the fluoride. The foam that mixes with spit is sucked or spit out. It is important to not drink or eat for 30 minutes after a foam or gel fluoride treatment.

The best fluoride professional treatment during the yearly visit is fluoride varnish. Fluoride varnish is a flavored suspension of fluoride that is painted on the teeth. The sticky film stays on the teeth longer and the patient can eat and drink immediately after the fluoride treatment.

For many patients, a higher dose of fluoride is needed on a regular basis. When this is needed, Dr. Goodwin may prescribe fluoride tablet supplements, prescription fluoride rinses, or prescription strength fluoride toothpaste. With these prescriptions, it is important to use as directed to prevent fluoride toxicity. A prescription might be prescribed for a patient that has:

  • Poor Oral Cleanliness
  • Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia)
  • Active Caries
  • Drug Misuse
  • Orthodontic (braces) treatment with or without poor oral cleanliness
  • High Dimensions of caries-causing microscopic organisms in the mouth
  • Exposed root surfaces of the teeth
  • Poor Diet
  • Current radiation treatments of the head and neck
  • Decreased salivary production (dry mouth)
  • Existing Fillings
  • Lack of regular dental care


The American Cancer Society states: “More than 50 population-based studies have looked at the potential link between water fluoride levels and cancer. Most of these have not found a strong link to cancer. Just about all of the studies have been retrospective (looking back in time). They have compared, for example, the rates of cancer in a community before and after water fluoridation, or compared cancer rates in communities with lower levels of fluoride in drinking water to those with higher levels (either naturally or due to fluoridation).”

In 1991, the US Public Health Service issued a report on the benefits and risks of fluoride. When looking at a possible link with cancer, they first reviewed the results of studies done with lab animals. They concluded that the few studies available “fail[ed] to establish an association between fluoride and cancer.” They also looked at population-based studies, including a large study conducted by the National Cancer Institute. They concluded: “Optimal fluoridation of drinking water does not pose a detectable cancer risk to humans as evidenced by extensive human epidemiological data available to date, including the new studies prepared for this report.”

The National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academies, issued a report titled “Health Effects of Ingested Fluoride” in 1993. Its conclusion was that “the available laboratory data are insufficient to demonstrate a carcinogenic effect of fluoride in animals.” They also concluded that “the weight of the evidence from the epidemiological [population-based] studies completed to date does not support the hypothesis of an association between fluoride exposure and increased cancer risk in humans.”

The general consensus among medical experts and researchers done to date is that there is no strong evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer. However, some of the reviews noted that further studies are needed to clarify the possible link. In all of the studies, the benefits in dental health and the decrease in dental caries far outweighed the risks of cancer or negative side effects of fluoride.


Like any medication, a lot of fluorides can cause negative side effects.

Too much fluoride can cause:

  • white specks on mature (adult) teeth
  • staining and pitting on teeth
  • problems with bone homeostasis (stability)
  • very dense bones that aren’t very strong

Acute toxicity from fluoride foam, gel, varnish, toothpaste and rinse is rare. Toxicity, or overdose, from fluoride prescription pills or from glass etching creams, can cause:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal taste in the mouth (salty or soapy taste)
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Eye irritation (if it gets in the eyes)
  • Headache
  • Abnormal levels of calcium and potassium in the blood
  • Irregular or slow heartbeat
  • Cardiac arrest (in severe cases)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shallow breathing
  • Tremors (rhythmic movements)
  • Weakness

If you suspect you or your child has had an overdose of fluoride, contact Poison Control immediately. The number for Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222.

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