Did you know that children are more susceptible to cavities than adults because baby teeth have softer tooth enamel? Kids especially can benefit from fluoride and the decay-fighting benefits it can offer. How does fluoride work, and is it necessary? Here’s what you should know.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally exists in many foods and almost all water. Even though it is found in nature, the amount is not enough to provide the optimal benefits of supporting healthier teeth. Therefore, fluoride is often added to:
- the drinking water in people’s homes
- toothpastes and other dental products
- treatments in the dentist’s office
How Can Fluoride Help My Child?
A key benefit of fluoride is to help strengthen the enamel on your child’s teeth. Enamel is the hard, outer layer that:
- protects the teeth from damage and decay
- helps keep teeth looking white
When your child eats sugary foods, bacteria in their mouth produce acids that can wear away the enamel. Fluoride can help combat this problem by helping to put important minerals back in the teeth. This results in stronger teeth that are better protected against problems like decay and cavities.
What is Fluoride Varnish?
Fluoride varnish is a concentrated form of fluoride that pediatric dentists paint onto kids’ teeth to help strengthen them while they are developing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children have this treatment 2 to 4 times per year starting at 6 months old until they are 5 years old.
After that, dental providers may recommend additional fluoride treatments to protect children’s teeth as they continue to develop.
Is It Safe to Drink Water with Fluoride?
The AAP, the American Dental Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that water fluoridation is safe and works to prevent tooth decay. According to the AAP, community water fluoridation has been shown to reduce tooth decay by 25%!
Should My Child Use Fluoride Toothpaste?
Fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children by the AAP in these amounts:
- A "smear" of fluoride toothpaste twice a day when the first tooth appears and until age 3.
- Once your child has turned 3, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used.
It’s important to teach kids to spit and not swallow when brushing. Swallowing too much fluoride may potentially cause a condition called dental fluorosis.
What Is Dental Fluorosis?
Dental fluorosis is a condition that can potentially occur if too much fluoride is ingested by young children up until age 8. It doesn’t affect the function of the teeth but can cause discolorations on the permanent teeth. Your pediatric dentist can talk with you about ways to get the important benefits of fluoride while minimizing the risk of fluorosis.
Pediatric Dentistry in Gaithersburg, MD
Here at Dream Smiles Pediatric Dentistry of Gaithersburg, we administer fluoride treatment as an important part of our preventive and diagnostic services. To learn more, contact us today at 301-327-1003. Or request an appointment online.