I went to the dentist the other day for a cleaning, and she asked me if I use mouthwash that contains fluoride. I shook my head and said, "My toothpaste has fluoride in it, isn't that enough?" She didn't think so and clinical studies show that by using both a fluoride mouthwash and a fluoride toothpaste, it can provide extra protection against tooth decay more than if you use fluoride toothpaste on its own. Fluoride can prevent cavities in two ways. It strengthens the protective layer of enamel on your teeth, so it can better resist cavities. It can also reverse low levels of tooth decay and remineralize soft spots on your teeth, which can prevent new cavities from cropping up.
What about fluoride being added to public water? To find out
Even though fluoride can be found naturally in many water sources, many cities add fluoride to tap water. Some believe the extra fluoride can be detrimental to your health, and can cause staining, bone cancer, or mental illness. Others believe that it's doing your mouth good, and that there's no evidence that fluoride can lead to serious health problems. Drinking fluoride is a lot different than rinsing with it though, so is my dentist right? Should I be rinsing with fluoride?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the best way to reduce tooth decay is to get fluoride both topically (as in toothpastes and mouth rinses), and systemically (when you drink it). So they're all for fluoride in water, and they say that it can reduce tooth decay in both children and adults by 20 to 40 percent.
So do you need a fluoride rinse? It depends on your dental history (whether or not you're prone to getting cavities), if your town adds fluoride to its water supply, and the recommendation of your dentist. So call your local health department to find out how much fluoride can be found in your public water, and talk to your dentist to see if they think you need to pick up a bottle of fluoride rinse.