Dear Dr. Ellie,
I know that my tap water has fluoride in it and that while I was a child the dentist did “fluoride treatments” to my teeth, but I really don’t understand what fluoride is or why it is important. Can you explain it for me?
Stacy M., Rochester, NY
Fluoride is used to improve tooth health, and it is not necessary to ingest fluoride–it is put into some water supplies for its benefit as it washes over your teeth, not because drinking it has a benefit. I recommend drinking bottled water, or filtering out the fluoride in drinking water and using a fluoride rinse, where it can flow around teeth.
Fluoride remineralizes teeth–putting back the minerals that acids have dissolved from the tooth enamel. The fluoride in the rinse actually becomes part of the new enamel–stronger and smoother than the original tooth–and the added benefit to this is that the slippery surface makes it difficult for plaque to stick to teeth.
You should use a fluoride rinse before bed, and rinse at least 1 minute (the longer the better). Do not eat or drink after rinseing with fluoride. A second rinse during the day will add to the benefites.
I recommend ACT(r) Fluoride Rinse–it can be purchased from most drug or grocery stores or at www.zellies.com.