Fluoride is effective in preventing cavities, or tooth decay. Fluoride comes in two varieties, systemic and topical.

Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through the public water supply. While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to cavities.

Topical fluoride is delivered through toothpaste, mouthwash, and in the dentist’s office. It prevents cavities on teeth present in the mouth.

A topical fluoride treatment in your dentist’s office takes only a minute. Depending on your risk factors for decay, the recommendation may be to have a professional treatment every three, six, or twelve months. Your dentist may also prescribe an at-home fluoride product such as a mouthwash, toothpaste or gel for more frequent topical use.