Fluoride Is Not Just for Kids
By: Ellen Leslie, Registered Dental Hygienist
Many adults may be reluctant to choose in-office fluoride treatments for a variety of reasons. Cost, lack of information, miscommunication, it’s inconvenient, social media perception, or perceived need for treatment (I’m not a child, why do I need a fluoride treatment?) All play a part in an adult’s decision whether to have an in-office fluoride treatment.
- Helps decrease sensitivity -- the patient can enjoy foods/drinks without the worry of discomfort
- Provides protection non systemically when applied topically
- Helps to re-mineralize without needing to drastically change daily habits and gives longer-lasting protection to the tooth surface
In the dental office, the use of fluoride is recommended and helps strengthen teeth by bonding with natural tooth minerals. We know Dental Caries is a disease of the dental structures (enamel, dentin, and cementum). The demineralization of these components through dental biofilm (plaque) and acid formation (everyday foods and drinks) causes a cavitated lesion or a “cavity”. Fluoride bonds with natural teeth resulting in stronger teeth that are more resistant to decay systemically (for developing teeth) and topically (directly applied to exposed tooth surfaces).
But this information alone is not enough to give patients. Explanations of the benefits versus the features of fluoride treatments to adult patients – or “what’s in it for them?” are needed. Communicating to patients this information will help the patient understand the benefits of the recommended treatment.
The use of fluoride provides the most effective method for caries control and prevention. There have been years of studies and clinical experience proving that patients benefit from professional topical fluoride applications. As Dental Professionals we have a responsibility to our patients to recommend fluoride products and help our adult patients understand that they too are susceptible to decay. Typically, we associate fluoride treatments with children however, they are not the only ones that can have poor oral hygiene, lack of dental care, and poor eating habits. Like children, adults may also consume sugary/acidic beverages and snacks frequently. Other things that can increase the caries risk for an adult is recession that leaves root surfaces vulnerable to cavities, multi-surface restorations, lack of routine dental appointments, xerostomia, or “a dry mouth” which can be a side effect from common medications like Blood Pressure or psychiatric medications and radiation therapy.
Recommendations for in-office fluoride treatments are most effective when the patient understands how it will benefit them. Empowering your patient to make decisions vs just educating them will help overcome any communication challenges for a patient and lead to better patient outcomes.
As our population increases in age, so can their caries risk. Performing individualized assessments on our adult patients and discussion on their current health status or habits will help engage them in their oral health decisions. Involving your adult patients in their own health can increase treatment plan acceptance when they understand why fluoride treatment is recommended and the benefits associated with the treatment.