Before you have an in-office fluoride treatment, your teeth should be clean. Your dentist may need to polish away stains. If you use fluoride rinses or gels at home, first brush your teeth thoroughly and floss them. It's a good idea to use fluoride products at night before bedtime. When you are sleeping, they are less likely to be washed or rinsed away.
The fluoride treatments you receive in a dental office have more fluoride than over-the-counter fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste. They are used for both children and adults. Dental-office treatments also are different chemically and stay on the teeth longer.
There are two common types of professionally applied fluorides. Acidulated phosphate fluoride (APF) is acidic; neutral sodium fluoride is not. Neutral sodium fluoride usually is used for people who have dry mouth (xerostomia) or who have tooth-colored fillings, crowns or bridges. An acidic fluoride may irritate a mouth that is dry. It also can create small pits in tooth-colored plastic composite fillings.
Fluoride is applied as a gel, foam or varnish during a dental appointment. The teeth are dried so the fluoride doesn't become diluted. Fluoride gel or foam can be applied by using a tray that looks like a mouth guard for one to four minutes. Fluoride varnish can be painted directly on parts of the teeth that are most likely to get a cavity, to strengthen them. This is an advantage of varnish over gel or foam. Varnish also contains a very strong concentration of fluoride. Topical fluoride comes in a variety of flavors, but it should never be swallowed.
Fluoride supplements are usually used in children. They are taken in small quantities. The daily dose ranges from 0.25 to 1 milligram. The amount is based on the child's age and the amount of fluoride in the water he or she drinks.
Everyone should use fluoridated toothpaste. Let care be taken with young children. They are more likely to swallow the toothpaste than to spit it out, so stick to the required pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Encourage children to spit out as much as possible while brushing. Avoid flavored toothpastes that may encourage swallowing.
Following professional fluoride treatment, don't eat, drink or smoke for at least 30 minutes after. This helps to increase the fluoride's contact with the teeth.