First, let’s discuss what fluoride is and how it can help with overall oral health for both parents and children.
What is Fluoride?
Often referred to as ‘nature’s cavity fighter,’ fluoride occurs naturally in bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. It’s also naturally present in many food and beverages such as eggs and milk. Ingested topically to erupted teeth, or ingested orally during tooth development, fluoride is said to help prevent tooth decay, strengthen enamel and even reduce the harmful effects of plaque.
Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases. Fluoride counters this as it prevents the acid produced by bacteria in plaque from dissolving. Fluoride has also been found to be effective in preventing dental caries/cavities but there have been no controlled studies to evaluate the optimal dose.
How Does Fluoride Protect Teeth?
Fluoride benefits both children and adults by preventing or in some cases, reversing tooth decay.
Fluoride helps to combat tooth decay in two main ways:
It’s incorporated into the structure of developing teeth when ingested
It protects teeth when it comes in contact with the surface of a tooth
Fluoride prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving tooth enamel. It allows teeth damaged by acid to repair themselves and although it cannot always repair or remineralize cavities, it can prevent new cavities from forming.
Is Fluoride Safe for Children?
As we mentioned earlier, the right level of fluoride is very important. And it can be different for everyone. It’s important that children receive the perfect amount - not too much and not too little.
Your dentist or family doctor can help to determine the proper level of fluoride for your child. However, in general, children under the age of six months do not need fluoride supplements. The dosage depends on how much fluoride your child is consuming naturally (from water, food and beverages).
As a general rule of thumb, young children age three and older should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and should avoid swallowing access toothpaste. Children older than six may use fluoride-containing mouth rinses if instructed by a dentist or doctor but should always be supervised.
Overexposure to Fluoride
In general, fluoride consumption is safe. But as with most other vitamins and nutrients, too much can be harmful. Most children receive the right amount with a combination of toothpaste and a naturally fluoridated water supply.
However, too much fluoride before the age of eight can sometimes result in fluorosis, which is the discolouration of permanent teeth. Children are especially vulnerable to dental fluorosis as their developing teeth are much more sensitive to higher fluoride levels.
The Canadian Health Measures Survey found that dental fluorosis is not a major issue of concern for the vast majority of children. About 16% of children have mild forms of fluorosis that often go unnoticed by both the children and their parents.
Consult your dentist or give us a call if you notice any changes in your child’s teeth.