So, your dentist recommends fluoride for your child’s dental health. You’re a health-conscious parent; you don’t want to give your child something if they don’t need it. Does your child really need fluoride? How do you know? If you’re wondering these things, then this blog is written for you. Keep reading to learn about the health benefits of fluoride and to be an informed parent at your child’s next dentist appointment!
What Is Fluoride and What Are the Benefits to My Child’s Teeth?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral found in groundwater. The body uses fluoride in the development of adult teeth. Fluoride strengthens teeth, protects them from tooth decay and cavities, and provides the body with the material it needs to repair teeth that have been affected by low levels of tooth decay.
Fluoride is important for children because of its role in the development of adult teeth and in preventing cavities. Over 25% of 2-5-year-olds have one or more cavities, according to the CDC. It can be challenging for children and their parents to properly clean the deep grooves in the teeth in the back of a child’s mouth, making both fluoride and dental sealants part of the recommended pediatric dental treatment routine.
Two Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Child’s Health
Your dentist will recommend fluoride for your child based on two primary factors, age and the amount of fluoride currently available through your local water supply.
1. How Old Is Your Child?
Because the body uses fluoride to develop, strengthen, protect, and repair teeth, it is only necessary for a child who has teeth. Children who are 6-months old and younger do not need fluoride. Your child’s teeth will begin to come in at between 4-7 months old, at which point you should ask your dentist about fluoride.
For more information on how to care for your child’s teeth at various ages and stages, read our blog: How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth!
2. How Much Fluoride Is in the Water Your Child Drinks?
For optimal dental health benefits, your child’s water should contain 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter. Your dentist may know how much fluoride is in your local water supply, but you can also call your local water utility company or public health department to find out. If your child drinks well water, it will need to be tested; if they drink bottled water, make sure it is fluoridated water at above 0.6 milligrams of fluoride per liter. If your child is not naturally receiving the recommended amount of fluoride through the water they drink, they should be taking fluoride supplements. Regardless of how much fluoride they are receiving in their water, at 1-2 years old, your child should be using small amounts of fluoride toothpaste, only be sure to instruct your child to spit and not swallow. Talk to your dentist about the options available.
A Quick Note on Fluorosis and Food Poisoning
You may have heard of fluorosis, the white speckling or streaking of the teeth that can occur in children under 8 years old while their teeth are developing if they receive too much fluoride. Fluorosis is not dangerous to your child’s health, but it does slightly affect the long-term appearance of their teeth. Children are at risk of fluorosis if they take fluoride supplements in addition to receiving enough fluoride through their local water supply, or if their local water supply contains too much fluoride. If you do your research and monitor the amount of fluoride your child is receiving, fluorosis should not be an issue for them.
Food poisoning, on the other hand, requires a trip to the emergency room. Your child can get food poisoning if they ingest too much fluoride in a short period of time, such as a bottle of fluoride supplements or a tube of fluoride toothpaste. Keep any and all fluoride products out of reach in a locked cabinet and call Poison Control if you think your child may have ingested too much fluoride.
If your child is over 6 months old and you haven’t checked the fluoride levels in your local water supply yet, it’s time to talk to your dentist. At Valley Dental, we can walk you through your child’s fluoride options and make a plan for their long-term dental health. Schedule an appointment today!