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Fluoride Treatment - Benefits, Side Effects, and Recommendations

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Fluoride prevents tooth decay by aiding in remineralization and fighting against harmful bacteria. Read below to know about fluoride treatment in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Infanteena Marily F.

Published At January 25, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 12, 2023


Fluoride is a natural mineral responsible for building strong teeth and preventing cavities. The application of fluoride is essential for maintaining good oral health. Fluoride helps fight against cavity-causing bacteria and makes the enamel (outer layer of teeth) of teeth stronger. Fluoride treatments may offer significant benefits for teeth protection, but this does not mean it is suitable for everyone, as it has its own side effects. This article will discuss fluoride treatment, its uses, and its side effects.

When Is the Application of Fluoride Important?

Cavities occur when bacteria degrade the food particles, leading to plaque production on the tooth surface. Plaque causes the formation of acid on the tooth surface that erodes the enamel surface. It further causes the penetration of bacteria inside the tooth, leading to infection, which spreads and enters the bloodstream and nerves. Fluoride application is essential when an individual is prone to developing caries or at a high risk of developing caries.

The following conditions increase the risk of cavities:

Excessive use of drugs, alcohol, or cold drinks.

Eating disorders or increased exposure of teeth to glucose.

Poor oral hygiene.

Lack of professional dental care or irregular dental visits.

Poor diet.

A dry mouth or decreased salivary production makes the tooth more susceptible to caries.

Weak enamel.

What Happens During a Topical Fluoride Application?

Professional fluoride application treatment is carried out in the dental office.

Fluoride application can be carried out in various forms such as highly concentrated rinse, foam, gel, or varnish.

Topical fluoride can be applied with the help of a swab, brush, or tray. It is also available as a mouthwash.

In general, regular toothpaste and regular drinking water contain fluoride content in variable amounts.

The procedure of fluoride application takes only a few minutes, but it contains much more fluoride than regular drinking water or toothpaste. One should avoid eating or drinking water at least for 30 minutes after topical fluoride application to allow complete absorption of fluoride.

It is always advisable to give the entire health history to the dentist to prevent any probable side effects or complications. It also helps dentists in choosing the proper treatment plan for the patients.

Based on the American Dental Association and the oral condition of the patient, fluoride treatment is recommended every three to six months or 12 months. In individuals who are at high risk of cavities, then the dentist may advise them to use a fluoride gel or fluoride rinse regularly at home.

The most common sources of dietary fluoride include

  • Tea.

  • Water.

  • Food cooked in water.

  • Fishes that are consumed with their bones.

  • Infant formula.

The optimal fluoride intake comes from food, water, and supplements.

Recommended daily intake of Fluoride

What are the Recommendations for fluoride toothpaste in children?

  • 0-3 Years of Age: Brushing in these kids should be done under close supervision. Only a thin layer of toothpaste is recommended for children under three years of age. Only half of the bristles should be covered by the toothpaste, and the amount should not be greater than the grain of the rice.

  • 3-6 Years of Age: Fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children of this age, and the size of toothpaste should not be more than the size of a pea. It is recommended to ensure that the kid spits out the entire amount of toothpaste while brushing.

What Are the Advantages of Fluoride Treatment?

Fluoride has many benefits for dental health. The following are the advantageous effects of fluoride application on teeth:

1. Fluoride helps to increase mineral uptake by increasing the reabsorption by teeth, which helps repair weak tooth enamel.

2. When teeth are developing, it joins with tooth structure and strengthens enamel, making them less vulnerable to bacteria and the formation of cavities for a lifetime.

3. Fluoride slows down or even reverses the development of cavities by harming the cavity-causing bacteria.

So, overall, fluoride offers the following benefits for good dental health:

  • Decreases the risk of cavities.

  • Slows down the risk of caries progression.

  • Prolong the life of deciduous teeth.

  • Prevents the progression of gum disease.

  • Reduces the premature loss of teeth.

  • Decreases the damage to teeth and prevents further complications.

Therefore, it ultimately reduces the time and money an individual spends on the dentist.

What Are the Side Effects of Excess Fluoride?

Along with the benefits of fluoride, one should be aware of the adverse effects of excess fluoride. Like any other medication, excess fluoride intake than the prescribed dose causes harmful complications. Fluoride poisoning is very rare nowadays, but when there is chronic overexposure of dentition and the body to fluoride, it causes harmful effects on the developing bones and teeth in small children. The following are the effects of excess fluoride:

  • White specks on mature or developed teeth.

  • Staining and pitting on teeth, also known as mottling.

  • Bone homeostasis.

  • Dense bones that are not very strong.

  • Acute toxicity leads to nausea, diarrhea, tiredness, and excessive sweating. On the extreme end, it may lead to death, so fluoride should be kept out of reach for children.

What Are the General Measures to Maintain Oral Hygiene?

Oral health dramatically affects other bodily functions. Dental health is a mirror of overall health. The general measures to take good care of one’s oral health are as follows.

  • Brush the teeth twice a day for two minutes in the morning and at night.

  • Floss every day.

  • Avoid sugary snacks and beverages.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Visit a board-certified dentist at least twice a year for routine dental checkups.


Fluoride application treatments are safe for most people. As mentioned above there are some side effects of fluoride applications, but they are minimal compared to the benefits. Side effects of fluoride come mostly from swallowing a large amount of fluoride. Individuals with a high risk of caries should discuss their concerns with the dentist and get fluoride application treatment done. Overdosing in fluoride, also known as fluoride toxicity, can cause adverse complications in children and in adults.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Fluoride Treatment at Dentist Worth It?

Fluoride is a mineral proven to be beneficial in preventing tooth cavities. Fluoride treatments involve exposing the teeth to fluoride. The fluoride acts on the tooth's enamel layer, making a stronger bond called the fluoro-hydroxyapatite bond. This bond makes the teeth stronger and resistant to acid attacks by the micro-organisms causing tooth cavities. Hence, this prevents the teeth from dissolution by the acids and prevents tooth decay in the future. As a result, this also prevents the further consequences of tooth decay and saves the individual from complex tooth procedures like root canals and tooth extractions in the future.


How Often Should One Do Fluoride Treatment?

Brushing twice daily, flossing, six monthly teeth cleaning, and fluoride treatments can save one from complex dental procedures and expensive dental treatments. Depending on the dental and medical history, dentists advise fluoride treatments to be done every six months or annually. This way, one can prevent the onset of early cavities and prevent tooth decay.


Can a Person Eat After a Fluoride Treatment?

Fluoride crystals react with the enamel to form the acid-resistant bond called the fluoro-hydroxyapatite bond. Eating anything during this bond formation can interfere with the fluoride crystals. This can impact the effectiveness of the fluoride and will not give the desired results. It is recommended to avoid eating anything for a minimum of 30 minutes to one hour after the fluoride treatment. A period of half an hour to one hour is sufficient for all the fluoride to be absorbed entirely.


What Can One Expect After Fluoride Treatment?

After the fluoride treatment, one can expect a weird taste in the mouth. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, or a gag reflex, but not always. Fluoride treatments do not cause visible changes like white or cleaner teeth. However, one can expect reduced tooth cavities over a while.


Should Adults Get Fluoride Treatments?

Adults with a high risk of developing tooth cavities should ideally get fluoride treatments done every six to twelve months. Getting fluoride treatments makes the teeth resistant to the acid attack by bacteria, causing tooth decay. Hence, fluoride treatments prevent the onset of tooth cavities and save one from complex and expensive dental treatments like root canals and tooth extractions.


Does Fluoride Treatment Make the Teeth Whiter?

No. Fluoride treatments do not whiten teeth. Fluoride gels used in fluoride treatments do not contain abrasive or bleaching agents that can whiten teeth. Teeth whitening gels contain bleaching agents that can whiten teeth. Fluoride gels only contain high concentrations of fluorides to prevent tooth cavities.


Are Fluoride Treatments Painful?

No, fluoride treatments are not painful at all. Fluoride treatment involves fluoride gels placed on foam trays and just placed in the mouth on the exposed tooth surfaces. It does not involve the use of any injections or other dental instruments. It is the only dental treatment that does not hurt or cause teeth sensitivity.


Does Fluoride Cause Yellow Teeth?

No. Fluoride gels contain high concentrations of fluoride used to make the teeth strong enough to resist the acid attack from the bacteria causing tooth decay. Low fluoride levels do not cause any tooth discolorations or change the color of the teeth. It does not change the color or make the teeth yellow. However, high concentrations of fluoride can cause brown discoloration of the teeth.


Can Fluoride Worsen Teeth Conditions?

While low levels of fluoride help strengthen and protect tooth enamel, too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis. It can affect the tooth and cause brown discoloration of teeth, opaque white marks, white patches or lines on the surface of the tooth, mottled enamel, and poor mineralization of the teeth. This can make the teeth brittle and more susceptible to tooth chipping and fractures.


Can High Fluoride Concentrations Make One Sick?

Yes, too much fluoride can cause fluoride toxicity. This can, however, prove to be very dangerous for the individual. Fluoride toxicity can cause symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, increased salivation, or increased thirst. These symptoms occur within fifteen minutes to half an hour after ingesting high concentrations of fluoride and may last for one to two days. Chronic exposure to high fluoride concentrations can also cause dental fluorosis can cause the teeth to appear brown and mottled.


What Does a Fluoride Treatment Taste Like?

A fluoride rinse is just like a mouthwash. Fluoride gels and varnishes feel slim but are usually minty and do not taste bad. At times fluoride gels may have flavoring agents that can taste fruity and minty. After fluoride treatments, it is advised to not eat or drink anything for half an hour to one hour.


Is Fluoride Harmful?

Fluoride toxicity can prove to be fatal. High fluoride concentrations are associated with the risk of fluoride toxicity and dental and skeletal fluorosis. Hence, dentists advise using low fluoride concentrations in toothpaste to prevent dental cavities and strengthen teeth.
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Dr. Kandi Disha Yermal
Dr. Kandi Disha Yermal



oral hygiene maintenance
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