What does the science say on fluoride at the dentist for adults?
August 31, 2022 12:51 PM   Subscribe

What does the actual scientific research say about whether I need regular fluoride treatments at the dentist?

I'm in my 30s. I have good teeth. My city has fluoridated water. Do I really need to pay for fluoride out of pocket twice a year, or will I be okay if I skip one or both treatments?

The web resources I can find on this are either dentists' offices, which are obviously a biased source here, and general websites like WebMD. I'm looking for actual research studies.

I saw this previous AskMe on the same question, but this question was open to personal experience and anecdotes, whereas I'm looking for links to research.
posted by capricorn to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Evidence Supporting Fluoride Varnish

New study questions value of fluoride varnish

Fluoride varnish for adults

My reading is that it does something, but probably more important for kids; healthy adults probably don't need it; even for kids it might not be worth it.

OHenryPacey, can you help?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:11 PM on August 31, 2022

Agree with Mr.Know-it-some - mostly important for kids especially in areas without adequate water fluoridation.

For additional links with recommendations and research (and the research that formed the recommendations) I would recommend looking to your country's dental association, choosing wisely, or to public health recommendations like the USPSTF. For example both the ADA and the NHS recommend fluoride varnish and rinse mostly in children or adults with decay, or in areas without fluoridated water.

Likely no, as an adult without dental issues who uses fluoridated toothpaste and fluoridated water, you don't need to pay for fluoride at the dentist twice a year. You can skip one or both. However, where I am "good teeth" would only be seen every 12 months and fluoride would not be offered, so I can't comment on your teeth and how that impacts preventive care for you.
posted by narcissus_and_ambrosia at 1:17 PM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: This entry on the National Library of Medicine points to this study from 2013 which says (I'm summarizing) that 2.26% fluoride varnish, applied at least every three to six months, has a low level of certainty for preventing cavities in adults, but that the benefit outweighs potential harm. There is a caveat that "Patients at low risk of developing caries may not need additional topical fluorides other than over-the-counter fluoridated toothpaste and fluoridated water."
posted by jabes at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2022 [3 favorites]

Just a personal perspective: I’m now in my 40s, and my freewheeling love of seltzer water and lemons has whittled away my enamel to almost nothing - if I could go back and get flouride through my 30s to shore up my enamel, I would.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 4:31 PM on August 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

We have well water and a 50+ year old adult with Invisalign, who supplements fluoride with a over the counter dental rinse. Teens with metal braces have an Rx leave-it-on toothpaste. YMMV.
posted by childofTethys at 7:22 PM on August 31, 2022

A few years ago, I set my Environmental Chemistry students a research-and-debate task about water fluoridation which changed my mind from being staunchly pro-F to mildly anti-F. tl;dr Caries in children has been falling steadily over the last 50 years in places with and without F in the water. It is grossly inefficient to fluoridate water at source when only 0.1% of it actually goes down gullets.
One thing that can be missing from benefit analysis of treatments is opportunity cost: there may be a marginal benefit to Farnishing your teeth but it costs money and time and that $25-$50 per treatment may have more utility elsewhere in a tight budget. Happy to defer to a real epidemiologist.
posted by BobTheScientist at 9:46 PM on August 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have this paper open for another reason, but it might lead you towards more adult-relevant results
posted by Acari at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2022

« Older Paint matching help   |   Dealing with an old mean dog? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.