Are Combinations of Topical Fluoride More Effective than Single Topical Fluoride in Preventing Dental Caries?

Toothpaste on mouth brush

Everyone has heard of fluoride by the time they have reached school age. Many schools discuss it as part of their presentations on health. These schools often include dental presentations that discuss proper tooth brushing techniques and more. But, not everyone is getting the right level of fluoride for the optimum protection from dental caries, also known as cavities.

Most public water supplies are supplemented with fluoride, but this will not be enough especially for people who only drink bottled water or who drink only small amounts of tap water. For that reason, it is most beneficial for children and adults to receive fluoride from two sources: topical and systemic. The latter is the fluoride found in the water. It is the topical fluoride that is the topic today.

Topical Fluoride Sources

Topical fluoride can be applied at home in the form of toothpaste and mouth rinses. These rinses come in two strength levels including one that must be prescribed by your dentist. You can also have topical fluoride treatments applied at the dentist office where a hygienist or the dentist will use trays and other techniques to apply more concentrated levels of fluoride. The treatment type vary and may depend on what your doctor thinks is best for you and what is most affordable.

Proper Use is Key

One of the most important aspects of fluoride treatments is that they are used correctly. Rinses should not be used for children that may swallow them,for example. All children should be monitored during tooth brushing so that they are not using too much toothpaste, regardless of the type. It is highly important to teach them to brush correctly and to spit, not swallow while they are brushing.

It is also important to know if there is fluoride in the water system at your home because the dentist can give recommendations including supplements and/or treatments in the office if they are needed. In most cases this is not really necessary nor is it recommended based on a number of factors including cost, convenience and the difficulty in prescribing the correct amount for each child. These supplements are used for only those who are at high risk and are not getting fluoride from any other source.

Proper Dental Care is the Most Important

Even with proper levels of systemic fluoride good dental care begins and ends with proper brushing, regular checkups and cleanings. It doesn’t matter if you have the toothpaste and the mouth rinse if your use is hit or miss. You have to be consistent with your dental hygiene routine. This applies to your children as well.

Allowing them to miss a day of dental care sets them up for lax care when they are older and this is where problems can set in. It is important to be sure that you are using the proper tools (the right brush, paste and rinse) and the right techniques to clean each and every surface of your teeth so that you can have a strong and healthy smile for life.

Dr. Nadia Kiderman is an oral health specialist who helps people with their smiles.

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