Most parents know that children need fluoride for strong teeth, but the guidelines for how long children should use it and in what form may be confusing.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children between six months and 16 years old receive some form of fluoride every day. This supplementation can come in toothpaste, fluoridated tap water, or other sources.
The Facts About Fluoride
Fluoride is a helpful mineral that occurs naturally in our environment. It strengthens tooth enamel and helps to prevent tooth decay. It also remineralizes teeth.
Officials add fluoride to municipal water supplies in many areas to benefit public health. The CDC reports that the rate of dental cavities is 25 percent lower in areas with fluoridated tap water than in areas lacking fluoride in their water.
Is Fluoride Safe?
The CDC assures parents that fluoride is safe for children. As with many health products, young children need supervision while they use fluoride.
Children should not use fluoride rinses under the age of six due to the risk of swallowing them.
When Should Kids Start Using Fluoride?
Children should start using fluoride at the age of six months. This age corresponds to the average date when the first tooth erupts.
In addition to using fluoridated toothpaste, children should see a dentist for the first time around the time the first tooth comes in. Early dental care improves oral health throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Before supplements come into play, dentists recommend having tap water tested to ensure it does not already have enough fluoride. In areas with no fluoridated tap water, dentists sometimes recommend supplementation. It can come in tablets or liquid form.
Proper Use of Fluoride Toothpaste in Children
In the past, dentists advised parents to keep their children away from fluoridated toothpaste until they had reached the age of three or four. Recently, dentists have decided that the benefits of fluoride outweigh the small risks of possibly swallowing toothpaste.
Today, dentists recommend brushing an infant or toddler's teeth with a bit of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Around age 3, start using an amount of toothpaste the size of a pea.
Fluoride Treatments at the Dentist
Many dentists apply supplemental fluoride directly to the teeth at the end of dental cleanings. Dentists use it in areas most prone to cavities.
Dentists generally apply the varnish two to four times a year. A dental professional must supervise the use of this varnish.
After receiving the varnish, children can eat or drink right away, but only soft foods and liquids. Do not have the child brush or floss for four to six hours.
Potential Problems with Fluoride
The most common side effect of fluoride supplementation is called fluorosis. It involves a change in the tooth enamel when children have too much fluoride while their teeth develop under the gums. Usually, only a dentist can detect fluorosis, which poses no more than a cosmetic issue.
Fluoride in Older Teens and Adults
Fluoride doesn't stop being useful when you turn 16. Fluoride products and tap water also carry benefits for adult teeth. They remineralize enamel and prevent cavities. If you do not have fluoridated tap water, consider using fluoride toothpaste in addition to a mouth rinse.
Protecting Teeth from Cavities for a Lifetime
Fluoride significantly changed dentistry by reducing the rate of cavities in the general population, including children. Parents can feel good about using fluoridated products or having the mineral in their tap water.
Always keep safety in mind when using fluoride or other dental products. Ask your dentist or hygienist how much fluoride you should use with your child to protect their teeth for years to come.
Preventing Future Dental Problems with Fluoride
Children need a firm foundation to enjoy life with as few dental problems as possible. Early care and avoiding activities like putting a child to bed with a bottle can reduce their chance of tooth decay.
Many parents do not know they should take their children to the dentist by the time they are a year old. Early childhood is the right time to start seeing a dentist and using fluoride products.
After your child is on their own, please encourage them to consider using fluoride products to care for their teeth.
Contact Suffolk Pediatric Dentistry Today
Contact us at one of our convenient offices today to make an appointment for your child.