When your baby’s first tooth comes in you start to think more seriously about your child’s dental health. Like all parents, you want to make sure they grow up with a strong and healthy smile. As you look into the ways you can prevent cavities and tooth decay, you will undoubtedly learn a thing or two about fluoride.
As we eat, drink and go about our days, tartar builds up on our teeth which will form plaque if not cleared away by brushing, flossing and visits to our hygienist. Plaque contains bacteria which produces harmful acids that dissolve the hard enamel on the tooth’s surface. If plaque is left to persist, the enamel can be permanently damaged, which is where tooth decay begins. Studies have shown that fluoride use can help harden, or remineralize tooth enamel, thereby reducing the incidence of cavities and other forms of decay.
Fluoride use is not the only way to remineralize tooth enamel, but it is the most common as it is a naturally-occurring trace mineral. When your children drink water containing fluoride, it enters the bloodstream and incorporates into the tooth enamel before the teeth emerge, making their teeth stronger and more resistant to decay later down the road.
Using fluoride is an important part of maintaining great oral health, but we don’t all need the same amount. Some of us may need to supplement fluoride use while others may already be getting too much. In order to use fluoride safely, first check with your dentist, family doctor or pediatrician, then follow these key tips.
Drinking Tap Water
If your child drinks several glasses a day of local tap water, and the fluoride concentration is at least .3 parts per million, you shouldn’t need to use fluoride supplements. If you and your children drink only bottled water, you may want to contact your doctor to get a recommendation on how much fluoride needs to be incorporated into the diet, if any.
If your kids are two years old or younger, do not use toothpaste or mouthwash that has fluoride in it, as kids this young usually swallow toothpaste. If your child is older and using toothpaste with fluoride, be sure that they only have a pea-sized amount per day. This will give your kids the necessary amount every day without overdoing it.
If you are breastfeeding your child, they will not need additional fluoride supplements. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that babies younger than six months old should not be given fluoride. If your baby is six months or older and formula fed, consider purchasing water marketed for babies with specific amounts of fluoride added to mix with formula. This can usually be found in the baby food aisle in your local supermarket.
Not sure what the fluoride concentration is in your city or are you unsure if your child is getting enough? Or, perhaps you are concerned that your child has had too much exposure to fluoride. Talk to your dentist or pediatrician right away to get more information. Fluoride supplementation is based on each child’s unique needs, so a supplement should be considered carefully.
Dr. Brad King D.M.D. P.C. has been practicing dentistry for more than 25 years in southeast Portland, Oregon, providing advanced dental care for children and patients of all ages. For more dental health information, visit the King Dental Blog.