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Fluoride helps to prevent cavities and reverse the negative effects of tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel. You can use fluoride topically or systemically. Topical fluorides are found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, gels, foams, and varnishes. Systemic fluoride is ingested through water and supplements and gradually strengthens teeth.
Topical fluorides strengthen teeth already present in the mouth making them more decay-resistant. Topical fluorides include toothpastes, mouthrinses and professionally applied fluoride therapies.
One method of self-applied topical fluoride that is responsible for a significant drop in the level of cavities since 1960 is use of a fluoride-containing toothpaste. The American Dental Association recommends that children (over two years of age) and adults use a fluoride toothpaste displaying the ADA Seal of Acceptance or consult with a child's dentist if considering the use of toothpaste before age 2. Other sources of self-applied fluoride are mouthrinses designed to be rinsed and spit out, either prescribed by your dentist or an over-the-counter variety. The ADA recommends the use of fluoride mouthrinses, but not for children under six years of age because they may swallow the rinse.
Professionally-applied fluorides are in the form of a gel, foam or rinse, and are applied by a dentist or dental hygienist during dental visits. These fluorides are more concentrated than the self-applied fluorides, and therefore are not needed as frequently. The ADA recommends that dental professionals use any of the professional strength, tray-applied gels or foam products carrying the ADA Seal of Acceptance
Topical fluoride is the mineral fluoride (which strengthens teeth and helps prevent cavities) in a form that is applied directly to the teeth. The most common form of topical fluoride is fluoridated toothpaste used at home. Mouth rinses with fluoride are another form of topical fluoride for home use. Your dentist can also apply topical fluoride to your teeth in the form of a rinse, gel, or foam.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.