Frequently Asked Questions About Fluoride for Children

Frequently Asked Questions About Fluoride for Children
Posted on 08/06/2020

FAQ about FlourideParents must often wrestle with a great deal of information and advice when establishing healthy daily routines for their children. You may have found fluoride an issue that opens up numerous questions, from what it does and why children need it to how much of it a child should receive.

The more you understand about the role of this common compound in children's dental health, the more safely and effectively you can employ it for the benefit of your own child. Discover some answers to frequently asked questions about fluoride for children.

What Is Fluoride?

When dentists talk about fluoride, they generally refer to an inorganic compound called sodium fluoride (NaF). This fluoride salt has found uses in industries such as metallurgy in addition to its applications in preventative dentistry. It dissolves readily in water, facilitating its addition to municipal water supplies.

Sodium fluoride commonly finds its way into commercial brands of toothpaste, although some toothpastes do not include this active ingredient. Most dentists urge both adult and pediatric patients to use fluoride toothpaste or drink fluoridated water. Some mouthwashes also contain fluoride.

How Does Fluoride Benefit Children's Teeth?

Fluoride encourages the production of fluorapatite, a substance that supports the creation and preservation of strong tooth enamel. In the still-growing teeth of children, fluoride helps to build more decay-resistant enamel in both baby teeth and permanent teeth. It also remineralizes teeth struggling with early-stage tooth decay.

Your child's teeth benefit from fluoride before they have even erupted. The fluoride in water and food can nourish and support dental development while the teeth still sit below the gumline. After they erupt, they receive direct exposure in the mouth while continuing to receive the substance systemically.

Sodas, fruit juices, candies, and other kids' favorites tend to expose tooth enamel to damaging amounts of acidic substances. Some of these products can cause direct acid exposure that contributes to tooth enamel erosion. 

Sugars mixed with dental plaque and bacteria can also cause acids to form on the teeth. As this combination eats into the tooth enamel, small holes known as cavities develop. Cavities that penetrate all the way to the sensitive inner pulp can produce toothaches and dangerous dental infections.

The tendency for children to gravitate toward enamel-challenging foods and drinks makes fluoride an indispensable form of dental protection throughout childhood. You can support fluoride's protective effects by encouraging your child to embrace healthy, non-acidic, and calcium-rich menu items.

How Can You Make Sure That Your Child's Teeth Receive Enough Fluoride?

Children under the age of six don't generally require any special form of fluoride rinse. Between the ages of six months and 16 years, however, your family dentist may recommend fluoride drops or tablets, as well as fluoridated toothpaste, if you don't have sufficient access to fluoridated water.

Your drinking water should boast a fluoride level of 0.7 milligrams per liter as the most beneficial amount for healthy teeth. While you can usually count on the municipal water supply to contain acceptable fluoride levels, you'll need to check private well water to see whether your family should receive supplemental fluoride.

Your child's age may determine the amount of fluoride toothpaste you administer. The American Dental Association recommends that children under the age of three should receive fluoride toothpaste in amounts no larger than a grain of rice, graduating to pea-sized servings between the ages of three and six.

Pediatric dental exams and cleanings often include a topical fluoride gel on the teeth of children who haven't received adequate fluoride through other means or who seem especially vulnerable to tooth decay. Your pediatric dentist can advise you on safe, healthy ways to increase your child's fluoride intake.

What Can Happen If a Child Gets Too Much Fluoride?

Children who expose their teeth to excessive amounts of fluoride during the formative growing years may develop a condition known as fluorosis. While fluorosis does not actually harm affected teeth (and may even lend the teeth additional decay resistance), it can leave unsightly surface stains on tooth enamel.

Ask your pediatric dentist for guidance on how to minimize your child's chances of developing fluorosis. In addition to knowing how much fluoride your water contains, take steps to prevent your child from brushing with excessive amounts of toothpaste or from swallowing any of the toothpaste.

Does Fluoride Continue to Matter After Childhood?

While fluoride undoubtedly plays a key role in sustaining healthy tooth development and enamel strength for growing teeth, it can also provide substantial ongoing benefits for adults. Fluoride will continue to reinforce tooth enamel against acids, sugars, and decay by aiding in replacing lost minerals.

Adults who insist on using fluoridated products to preserve their dental health also lead by example. As you educate your children on the importance of fluoride and continue to use fluoride in your daily dental routine, your children may reflexively place the same value on continued use of fluoride throughout their lives.

Dentistry for Children & Adolescents can provide you with all the facts and professional pediatric dental care you need to ensure healthier teeth for your child. Contact us today to learn more.

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Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

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