Fluoride and children
March 18, 2014
Fluoride is absorbed into structures, such as bones and teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to fractures and decay
For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel, thereby helping to prevent decay of tooth structures. Water fluoridation is endorsed by practically every major health and safety-related organization in the world, and in nearly every U.S. community, public drinking supplies are supplemented with sodium fluoride because the practice is acknowledged as safe and effective in fighting cavities.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which can be found throughout nature in water, soil, air and food. By adding fluoride into our drinking water, it can be absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth, which helps to reduce tooth decay.
Why Is Fluoride Important To Teeth and Why Do Children Need It?
Fluoride is absorbed into structures, such as bones and teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to fractures and decay. A process in your body called “remineralization” uses fluoride to repair damage caused by decay.
Fluoride helps teeth in two ways. When children eat or drink fluoride in small doses, it enters the bloodstream and becomes part of their developing permanent teeth. Swallowed fluorides also become part of the saliva and strengthen teeth from the outside. Acids are less able to damage tooth enamel strengthened by fluoride.
Fluoride is an important mineral in all children. Bacteria in the mouth combines with sugars and produce acid that can harm tooth enamel and damage teeth. Fluoride protects teeth from acid damage and helps reverse early signs of decay.
How Do I Get Fluoride?
Just drinking public water will provide a certain measure of fluoride protection. But for years, healthcare professionals have endorsed the practice of supplementing our intake with certain dietary products, and topical fluorides in many types of toothpaste and some kinds of rinses. Certain beverages such as tea and soda may also contain fluoride. Certain kinds of dental varnishes and gels may also be applied directly to teeth to boost fluoride intake.
All children should use fluoridated toothpaste. If your children are younger than 6, be cautious about how they use it, since young children are more likely to swallow toothpaste after brushing instead of spitting it out. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when they brush. Encourage them to spit out as much as possible. Avoid flavored toothpastes that might encourage swallowing.
Fluoride is safe and effective when used properly. Parents should supervise the use of all fluoride products in the home. Always remember to consult with a dentist or physician before using fluoride toothpaste, for children younger than 2 years.
Fluoride-supplement tablets should be stored safely away from young children. These supplements are taken each day in small quantities. The dose can range from 0.25 to 1 milligram per day based on the child’s age and the amount of fluoride in the water.
It is generally NOT safe to swallow toothpastes, rinses, or other products containing topical fluoride. In rare cases, some people may be overexposed to high concentrations of fluoride, resulting in a relatively harmless condition called fluorosis, which leaves dark enamel stains on teeth. Mild fluorosis appears as white specks on the tooth. All children should have a dental examination by the age 1 and parents should discuss the risks and benefits associated with fluoride toothpaste and supplements with their dentist.
Remember to call your dentist or orthodontist to schedule a consultation for all your specific dental needs.