Jul 14 2021

What Parents Should Know About Fluoride

happy little girl brushing her teeth in bathroom

We hear over and over again how important fluoride is for our teeth, but many of us don’t understand why. Understanding the value of fluoride is especially important for parents who want to help their children avoid cavities and achieve optimal oral health (and we know you do!).

A Brief History Lesson

Fluoride is a natural mineral found in rocks, rivers, lakes, oceans, soil, and certain foods. In 1944, the City Commission of Grand Rapids, Michigan voted to add fluoride to its community water system. During the 15-year study, researchers monitored the effects of water fluoridation on the children in Grand Rapids. Their findings? The number of cavities in children who were born after 1944 dropped more than 60 percent.

Since this discovery, many cities have added fluoride to their community water systems, and it has been added to most oral hygiene products for children and adults. Got more questions? We’ve got answers! Continue reading to learn more about fluoride and its effects.

What does the ADA think about water fluoridation?

The American Dental Association fully supports the addition of fluoride into community water systems. Based on years of research and the obvious benefits, the ADA states that fluoridation is “the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”

How does fluoride fight cavities?

Fluoride, the chemical ion of fluorine, strengthens dental enamel and prevents cavities from forming by combining with the calcium and phosphate in saliva.

Foods like bread, crackers, candy, and noodles trigger cavity-causing bacteria. These bacteria eat away and weaken dental enamel, making it vulnerable to developing cavities. Saliva on its own replaces the calcium and phosphate that these bacteria strip from the teeth, but it is not always strong enough to fight against the disease-causing bacteria.

Fluoride combined with saliva creates a substance called fluoroapatite. This combination of minerals strengthens and protects the dental enamel from decay.

Is there such a thing as too much fluoride?

Yes. Dental fluorosis is the greatest risk for children who consume too much fluoride. This condition is also known as mottled teeth. Children who swallow fluoride toothpaste or take fluoride supplements may develop streaks, spots, or pits on their teeth. Severe cases of dental fluorosis can cause brown, black, or gray spots on the teeth. While we hope this issue never occurs, the good news is that it is purely cosmetic.

When children with dental fluorosis are older, dentists may recommend teeth whitening to even out the surfaces of the teeth.

When should children start using fluoride toothpaste?

The ADA guidelines on fluoride toothpaste are as follows:

  • Infants receive appropriate amounts of fluoride through breast milk, ready-to-feed formula, and powdered formula. Mix powdered formula with water that is demineralized, purified, distilled, or de-ionized to ensure he or she isn’t consuming too much fluoride.
  • Parents of children younger than 3 should place a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) on the child’s toothbrush.
  • For children ages 3-6, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • The National Institutes of Health estimates that children ages 9-13 have a daily intake of no more than 2 mg of fluoride, and teens ages 14-18  have no more than 3 mg of fluoride daily.

Children are most at risk for dental fluorosis until age 8. As soon as your child is able, teach him or her to spit out the toothpaste and avoid swallowing it.

Talk to an experienced and trusted pediatric dentist about introducing your little one to fluoride.

Learn More from Dr. Matt, Overland Park Pediatric Dentist

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt’s goal is to educate children and their parents on how to avoid childhood tooth decay and achieve optimal oral health. He does this through kid-friendly teaching and easy-to-understand explanations for parents.

Call our friendly dental team today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an initial consultation or dental check-up for your little one.

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