Is Fluoride Good for Children?

Over the past several decades, fluoride use has significantly reduced the rate of tooth decay in children. Cavities remain to be one of the main childhood diseases and a common reason for missed school days. But tooth decay can also impair a child’s speech development, self-esteem, appearance, and overall wellness.

Fortunately, fluoride can help. When used properly, this natural mineral promotes healthy teeth that are more resistant to tooth decay and sensitivity. But like any type of supplement or vitamin, there comes a point where you can have too much of a good thing. That’s why fluoride levels are strictly regulated in municipal water sources and within oral health products.

What Dental Experts “Used to Say”

In the past, it was recommended that only fluoride-free toothpaste be used for infants and toddlers, at least until they were old enough to rinse and spit effectively. By the time this skillset was acquired, using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste was preferred. Until then, children could get their recommended fluoride intake from their regular diet.

Today’s Recommendations on Fluoride Use for Children

 Today dental research supports the use of a rice-sized smear of fluoridated toothpaste when brushing baby teeth. At this small of an amount, any accidental ingestion is safe. Too much could cause an upset stomach, so save the “pea sized” amount for when your child is old enough to rinse her mouth well.

Professional fluoride applications are recommended twice a year, usually during your child’s checkup and cleaning appointment. This treatment remineralizes any weaker outer enamel that’s been exposed to acids or sugars, strengthening it against potential tooth decay.

Is it Possible to Get Too Much Fluoride?

 Yes. Any excessive mineral or vitamin intake can be harmful, no matter your age. In children it’s especially important because their teeth are still developing. In areas where fluoride is naturally high in the soil, special filtration may be needed. If you are on a well water system, it’s important to ensure that fluoride levels comply with state or federal mineral guidelines, so that steps can be taken if it is too high or too low. If too little, teeth and bones can be extremely weak; too high, excessive mineralization can cause unsightly brown coloration and pits within the mature enamel.

When to Get a Prescription

Prescription fluoride use is usually only needed when children have suffered from extensive decay in the past (meaning that the bacteria are still active inside of their mouths,) take certain types of prescriptions due to underlying medical conditions, are developmentally impaired, or undergoing orthodontic treatment.

The type of fluoride prescription that’s best for your child’s situation will be something that you want to discuss with your family’s dentist. It may be in the form of a rinse, gel that’s brushed on before bed time, or a paste used in lieu of your child’s normal toothpaste.

Visit a Kois Center dentist to learn more about how you can help your child enjoy healthy, cavity-free teeth well into adulthood.