Great tools for healthier teeth: fluoride, sealants and digital x-rays

Keeping your teeth healthy means regular brushing, flossing, and watching what you eat and drink. But we have other tools at our disposal to help keep our teeth in top shape. Here’s a quick overview of three things you may not have thought too much about – fluoride, dental sealants and digital x-rays.

Fluoride. There has been some controversy about fluoride, and more and more patients have been asking me if it’s safe. I’ll tell you what I tell them: the benefits far outweigh the risks. Although it is toxic in large doses, small amounts are exceptionally beneficial. (It’s actually related to chlorine, and like the chlorine in pools, needs to be ingested in large amounts to be harmful.) The benefits of fluoride are significant:

  • It strengthens bones and teeth via remineralization.
  • It acts as an antibacterial agent, destroying bacteria that cause cavities.
  • It deactivates enzymes secreted by cavity-causing bacteria.
  • It can decrease the sensitivity of teeth to cold.

Long-term studies have determined that fluoride is instrumental in reducing the tooth decay rate in the general population. Cities with fluoridated water have fewer people with decayed teeth than municipalities without a fluoridated water supply.

Of course, too much fluoride isn’t good either. Overexposure can cause osteofluorisis, which weakens the bones and causes symptoms similar to osteoporosis. It can also cause discolouration and surface pitting of developing teeth. The water supply is our main source, but it’s also found in toothpaste, mouthwash and floss, and ends up in beverages and foods that contain municipally treated water. However, fluoride levels in cities are regulated and safe; generally, people who drink well water containing 7-10 parts per million (usually in rural areas) are most at risk for osteofluorisis.

Sealants. Do you have lots of deep crevices and grooves in your teeth? Sealants are a great preventative measure that can protect those areas from decay. A sealant is a plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. It acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.

Sealants don’t take long to apply, and can last for several years. Your dentist will check on them with every visit, and reapply when needed. And they’re not just for kids – they’re commonly used on adults, too – especially those with a lot of crevices and pockets that trap food and bacteria. Ask your dentist if they’re right for you or your kids.

Digital x-rays. More and more dentists are using digital x-rays instead of the traditional film kind. They are certainly easier for us to use – but the benefits for patients are significant as well. For one, they reduce exposure to radiation by a remarkable 65-95%. And they’re much faster, too, which means less waiting, shorter appointments, and faster diagnosis.

One thing I really like about them is how they allow me to explain things to my patients. When I show people their x-rays on the computer screen, the quality and clarity make it easy for me to illustrate exactly what I see – I can enhance images and magnify areas of concern, so they can clearly understand their treatment and feel more in control of the whole process.

A little knowledge is a powerful thing. I hope this post gives you the information you need to make informed decisions about your dental care, and take control of your oral and overall health.

If you have questions or comments about this blog or our practice, please call us at 905 637-5463 (KIND) or drop us an email at . We’d love to hear from you.

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