Fluoride treatments are most effective when combined with good oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and maintaining a diet high in vitamins and minerals can keep most people out of the high-risk dental category and will make routine treatments an added layer of protection and prevention. Some individuals may experience mild discomfort or gum irritation during or after fluoride application, especially if sensitive teeth are an issue, but in most cases, the treatment is painless and completely comfortable. Because the concentration of fluoride used in office treatments is so high, stomach upset or nausea may result if the solution is swallowed, but most often upright positioning helps prevent this.
Controversies over how safe fluoride is -- even in the parts per million concentrations in drinking water sources -- center on whether or not fluoride can cause cancers, increase tooth sensitivity and even damage teeth. In cases where too much fluoride has been present in drinking water or when it's administered too much in young children, a condition called fluorosis can develop as well. Fluorosis can cause small white streaks of dots on teeth or may even lead to browning of enamel, but it is not very prevalent or reported as a major concern for those receiving professional fluoride treatments. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association support the use of fluoride for oral health and provide data to back up their endorsements, but if unsure, speak with your dentist about the specific risks and the possible consequences of going without it. Non-fluoride tooth products are available in most drug and health food stores, and a dentist can suggest one best suited for your needs [source: ADA].
If you're at moderate to high risk for dental problems, a professional fluoride treatment is probably a worthwhile part of each routine cleaning and exam, and even if no problems are present, your dentist may recommend painting on the mineral just to give you a tooth up against cavities and for the health of your enamel.