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Fluoride is a compound from a natural element called fluorine. Toothpastes and mouth rinses and many other dental products contain fluoride as its active ingredient. Regular use of small amounts of fluoride can help prevent tooth decay.

The action of fluoride is threefold. First, it inhibits loss of minerals from tooth enamel and encourages remineralisation by strengthening areas that are weakened and beginning to develop cavities. Second, fluoride affects cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth by discouraging acid attacks that breakdown the tooth. Lastly, the risk of decay is reduced when fluoride is combined with healthy diet and good oral hygiene.

There are two ways of fluoride administration Systemic administration. A paediatrician or paediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride oral supplements based on your child’s age, risk of decay development and dietary source. Infant formulas contain different amounts of fluoride. Bottled, filtered and deep well water also contain variable amounts of fluoride. The paediatric dentist can help determine if your child is getting fluoride within the recommended amounts.

Fluoride is safe but in excess may result in a condition called fluorois. Mild fluorois manifest as tiny white specks or streaks on teeth that are often unnoticeable. Severe fluorois on the other hand may present as pitted brown discoloration. Fluorois can be corrected with a variety of aesthetic dental treatments. While fluorois is a known side-effect of excessive fluoride levels, the percentage of the populations with dental caries experience and needing the benefits of fluoride far exceeds those with fluorois experience.

In Apple Bite children can benefit from toothpaste with fluoride as endorsed by the India Dental Association and recommended by the World Dental Federation (FDI), the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry and the International Academy of Paediatric Dentistry IAPD. At least twice a day brushing (after breakfast and before bedtime) provides greater benefits than brushing once daily. Parents should dispense only a pea-sized amount (children aged 2 to 5 years) or a smear of fluoridated toothpaste (children under 2 years old) to prevent their young children from swallowing too much.

Topical applications of fluoride in gels or foams in trays are provided by dental professionals for up to 4 minutes during the child’s twice a year dental visit. Should the dentist prefer fluoride varnish, it is brushed or painted on to the enamel. Varnish is preferred for children with special needs who may not tolerate fluoride trays. Children with the highest risk of decay benefit the most from fluoride therapy. Risk factors for caries include: (1) history of previous caries, (2) a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates, (3) orthodontic appliances, and (4) certain medications or medical conditions that result in dry mouth.