Fluoride treatment is essential for protecting children from tooth decay. Most dentists recommend that children receive fluoride treatments in the office two to four times a year, depending on their risk of developing cavities.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children aged six months through 16 years must receive some form of fluoride daily. This fluoride can be in drinking water, toothpaste, or mouth rinse.
Recently, dental care experts lowered the recommended age for brushing with fluoride toothpaste to six months, or when the first tooth appears. Children who live in areas where tap water does not contain fluoride may be prescribed supplements.
Why is Fluoride Necessary?
Fluoride hardens the tooth enamel and lowers the chance of acid damage. It prevents tooth decay and, in some cases, can even stop minor cavities from progressing.
According to the CDC, fluoride is safe for children in small amounts. When children receive too much fluoride, as when using too much toothpaste, they may develop dental fluorosis or white stains and pitting on the permanent teeth. Under three years of age, use only a small smear of fluoride toothpaste the size of a single grain of rice. Between three and six years of age, parents can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
Options for Fluoride Treatment
In the dentist's office, there are several options for fluoride treatment. Children up to age 16 should receive these treatments at every dental visit and perhaps between cleanings if the dentist deems it necessary.
Varnish is the most common preventive fluoride treatment for children. The dentist paints the varnish on the teeth, where it hardens on contact with saliva. The dentist usually concentrates on areas most prone to cavities. Most children do not mind the taste of the varnish.
Some brands of varnish make the teeth temporarily appear yellow or dull, but when the child brushes at night, their teeth will look fine. After the varnish dries, your child can eat soft foods and drink liquids.
Gel treatments are less common than varnish today. The dentist fills a small tray with the gel and fits it over your child's teeth.
Fluoride Mouth Rinses
For older children (over age six), a mouth rinse can help reinforce fluoride use. Parents must supervise children to avoid swallowing the mouth rinse.
If you do not have sufficient fluoride in your tap water, your dentist may prescribe supplements.
Fluoride for Adults
Children are not the only patients who can benefit from fluoride. Parents should ask their family dentist what fluoride treatments they recommend for adults and older teens.
Call Suffolk Pediatric Dentistry
We want to help your child grow up with strong and healthy teeth for life. Contact us at one of our convenient Long Island offices to learn more about fluoride treatments for your child, and make an appointment today.