Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found everywhere in soil, air, water, plant, and animal life. Teeth that are developing require minerals that they receive from the bloodstream. It was once believed that fluoride, when ingested and delivered systemically in the form of a supplement, is incorporated into the enamel of the tooth resulting in a mineral structure that is stronger and more cavity resistant. Although some fluoride does get incorporated into your enamel when systemically delivered, it has been shown by modern research that this has a negligible effect on caries resistance. 

Your real benefit is derived from the topical effect. It may seem odd then that studies show that children who drink fluoridated tap water have 50% to 75% less dental disease. The real reason behind that interesting fact is due to the topical effect of the fluoridated drinking water passing through the teeth as it is swallowed or from its use during brushing and rinsing. However, too much ingested fluoride at an early age (particularly between the ages 3 to 6 years) can discolor your child’s developing teeth making them irregular (mottled) in appearance with whitish or brownish stains.

Although you may not realize it, your child may be receiving fluoride from many sources: tap water, infant formulas, reconstituted juices, toothpaste and even the food they eat. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using non-fluoridated bottled water to mix with infant formula if your infant derives nutrition solely from infant formula that’s not ready-made, particularly if your water supply is fluoridated.

Flouride Supplements

Depending upon the level of fluoridation of the water in your area, our dentist may prescribe a fluoride supplement for your child. If so, ensure your child swishes fluoride drops around the mouth with the tongue before swallowing, lets fluoride tablets slowly dissolve in the mouth or chews the tablets and spreads them around the teeth with the tongue. The best time for your child to take fluoride supplements is after brushing the teeth at night, right before bedtime, because the fluoride will coat the teeth and exude its topical effect for a far longer period of time with the greatly diminished saliva flow during sleep. Recommendations for fluoride regimens performed in the dental office have also been updated to take caries risk into consideration:

  • Children with moderate caries risk should have 6-month fluoride applications,
  • High caries risk patients are recommended to have up to one fluoride application every 3 months, and
  • Low caries risk patients may not benefit from in-office fluoride applications at all.

If needed, your child will enjoy up to 6 months of benefits from one application of fluoride varnish – the solely used topical fluoride treatment at 3 Rivers Pediatric Dentistry. Brushing with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste is also important. If your child is very young, from 0-2 years of age, your child should only use a rice-sized amount (smear) of toothpaste twice a day as it is likely they will swallow this minimal amount.

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