Best topical fluoride to prevent tooth decay

Worldwide, tooth decay is the commonest bacterial infection of the tooth. Interestingly, you can completely prevent tooth decay with dental health tools like tooth brush, tooth paste, mouth rinses and dental floss. In addition, fluoridated oral care products play a vital role in preventing tooth decay. And just what are these fluoridated products? Read on……………….

What are topical fluorides?

Topical Fluorides are those fluoride containing agents, which when applied to your tooth prevent tooth decay. These remain in high concentrations on the surface of your teeth to achieve an anticaries effect.

Who needs topical fluorides?

  • Individuals who have many decayed teeth.
  • Children who are prone to decay shortly after their milk teeth come into the mouth.
  • Medication that reduce saliva and thus increases the risk for tooth decay.
  • Patients on head and neck radiation.
  • After gum surgeries, when your tooth roots are exposed.
  • If you have fixed bridges or removable dentures in your mouth.
  • People with eating disorders or who are undergoing lifestyle changes that can affect maintaining good oral hygiene.
  • Physically or mentally challenged individuals, who have difficulty in proper brushing and hence develop more decay.

What are the types of topical fluorides?

Topical fluorides can be classified as

  1. Self applied products
  2. Professionally applied topical fluorides

1) Self applied Products

These products have a very low concentration of fluoride and is available in the stores . Generally, in the range of 0.2-1.0 mg fluoride/ml, tooth pastes, mouth rinses and gels belong to this category.

Fluoride Dentrifice/ toothpaste

Toothpaste is an important tool for good oral health. Fluorides in tooth paste was first introduced in the 1970’s and is a major source of fluoride in communities where fluoride is unavailable in drinking water. Fluoride is added to toothpastes as sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphste, amin fluoride, and stannous fluoride. With added fluoride, tooth pastes have consistently proven to be an effective anti-caries agent.

Generally, tooth pastes have 1000 ppm of fluoride ( Approx 0.38 mg o fluoride ). Your 6 year old child can start using fluoridated paste, but under strict adult supervision. Fluoridated paste is also helpful for the elderly to prevent tooth root decay. You need a  ‘pea sized’ portion ( with approx 0.75 mg of fluoride ) and brushing twice a day to be effective. Encourage your child to brush for just over a minute and spit out the excess paste.

Fluoride Mouthrinses

Fluoride mouth rinses were introduced in the 1960’s. In that, a rinse has an advantage over the paste because of its thinner consistency. Hence, the rinse can reach every nook and corner of your mouth. Commonly available over the counter, rinses have 0.05% sodium fluoride. Fluoride mouth rinses find their use in

  • Primary tooth decay preventive programmes in children and adults
  • In people with high risk of tooth decay
  • Patients with dry mouth
  • Tooth sensitivity due to tooth wear or exposed tooth root
  • In severe gum infections and tooth root decay
  • In individuals with braces
  • Patients with intraoral prosthesis

You have to avoid mouth rinses in children below 6 years of age, as they cannot control the swallowing muscles. Also, rinses in older children has to be used as a supplement to the paste.

Self-applied fluoride gels

These gels are available on prescription by your dentist. Your dentist will also make a tray to carry the gel onto the mouth. However, the concentration of fluoride in these gels are higher. These gels are recommended for individuals with braces, high decay risk and communities with fluoride deficiency.

2) Professionally applied topical fluoride

Professionally applied products are fluoride gels, foams, rinses and varnishes. Your dentist will use  Sodium fluoride ( 2% ), Stannous fluoride ( 8% ), Acidulated Phosphate Fluoride ( 1.23% ) formulations for your topical application treatment. They are applied under supervision, since these formulations have a very high concentration of fluorides. Depending on your decay risk, your dentist will decide on the intervals it is applied in.


Are topical fluorides effective?

Yes……..topical fluoride application has proven to be the best form of decay prevention in all age groups. Generally, such topical applications are very effective to prevent decay in your child. Talk to your dentist/ pedodontist about these programmes for your child and they will guide you on that.


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