Do we still need fluoride at the dentist if I use fluoride toothpaste at home?

I realize every time I take my child in for a cleaning (two times a year) with the pediatric dentist, she wants to apply a fluoride treatment. First, fluoride is only covered by my insurance once per year. Also, we use a toothpaste with fluoride in it everyday when we brush. Do we really need it every time we visit the dentist? — Anne in Oklahoma

The short answer to your question is yes. Fluoride has the unique ability to strengthen enamel. When fluoride is incorporated into the enamel it becomes calcium fluorapatite, which is much more resistant to tooth decay. Your dentist will likely recommend a fluoride treatment with each dental visit, because when applying topically by following the eruption of teeth into the mouth, it is likely to be most effective. It is good that you use a fluoride toothpaste as well. Fluoride toothpaste used daily is also effective in protecting enamel, but the concentration of fluoride in toothpaste is relatively low; nothing like the standard you will receive in the dental chair. A fluoride application from your dentist will provide your child a great benefit, as some of the fluoride varnishes when applied to the tooth surfaces will continue to leach fluoride into the tooth surface for a month or more. Fluoride will not only reduce the risk of new cavities, it can also reverse very early decay in some cases.

As far as insurance, most of the time your dentist will suggest what is in the best interest of their patients (in this case your child), regardless of insurance limitations. It’s important to trust your dentist as they best know your child’s risk factors for decay and the best way to prevent it.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Alana Macalik. For more information on the services she provides, visit her Arlington cosmetic dentist website.