Fluoride, a mineral that is found naturally in the environment is used to help harden tooth enamel and strengthen the teeth against cavities and decay. This substance has been used in dental applications since 1945, when the cities of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Newburgh, New York, began to fluoridate city water supplies on an experimental basis. After several years, tests indicated that there had been an overall reduction in tooth decay among the local population of these cities. Following this experiment, water fluoridation was recommended for all cities in the United States. Use of fluoride treatments in dental offices followed soon after.
Dentists recommend that their patients have fluoride treatments twice a year, generally at their bi-annual dental checkups. For patients with especially fragile teeth, more frequent fluoride treatments may be recommended. After the teeth have been x-rayed, cleaned and examined, the hygienist will prepare the fluoride treatment for the patient. Molds formed in the shape of the upper and lower dental arch are filled with a pleasantly-flavored, colored gel which contains the fluoride. The hygienist will insert these molds into the mouth of the patient and allow them to sit for a specified period of time. Once the pre-determined period of time for the fluoride treatment has passed, the hygienist will remove the molds. As an alternative method, the hygienist may paint the teeth with a liquid, foam, gel or paste that contains fluoride. To aid in the absorption of the fluoride, the patient should refrain from rinsing the mouth, eating or drinking for approximately 30 minutes after the application of the fluoride treatment.