Pediatric Dental Specialists of Atlanta

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Fluoride & Your Child

Fluoride, a mineral found in nature, plays a crucial role in the development of teeth and in preventing tooth decay. Despite tooth decay being a widespread issue, its prevalence is significantly reduced thanks to the fluoridation of public water supplies. This measure is supported by major pediatric dental and medical associations, recommending a level of 0.70 parts per million (ppm). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even recognizes fluoridated water as one of the key public health achievements of the 20th century.

However, access to fluoridated water isn’t universal. This is why, in some cases, we suggest fluoride supplements for children or the use of fluoride-enriched toothpastes and products. Given the potential for excessive fluoride intake, it’s important to seek our advice on using these fluoride-based products.

Girl at water fountain

The Role of Fluoride

Enamel, the outer layer of the tooth, is vulnerable to acid attacks from foods, drinks, and bacteria that produce acid from sugar. These bacteria thrive on sugar left in the mouth, leading to cavities. Fluoride integrates into tooth enamel, reinforcing it against these acids and even aiding in the repair of early stages of tooth decay.

Fluoride Delivery Methods

For children, fluoride can be absorbed through drinking water or supplements, benefiting the development of permanent teeth. After teeth have emerged, topical fluoride applications can further strengthen them. We recommend a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste for children under three and a pea-sized amount for those between three to six. In-office fluoride treatments involve applying fluoride directly onto the teeth, enhancing their resistance to decay.

Avoiding Excessive Fluoride

Overexposure to fluoride during tooth development can lead to enamel fluorosis, noticeable by white streaks or, in severe cases, darker discolorations and a pitted surface. While fluorosis isn’t harmful, it may necessitate cosmetic dental treatments. Conversely, tooth decay can significantly impact a child’s health and cause discomfort.

The risk of fluorosis diminishes by age 9, once all permanent teeth have appeared. We’re here to discuss the appropriate fluoride levels for your child, considering all sources of fluoride exposure, dietary sugar intake, and other decay risk factors. Although it’s important to be cautious with fluoride use, neglecting its benefits can adversely affect your child’s dental and overall health.