We all know that fluoride is an important part of caring for our children’s teeth. But how much do they need? And how do we know how much they are actually getting? Read on to get answers to all your fluoride questions.
What is Fluoride and How Does it Get into the Water?
Fluoride is derived from fluorine, which is a naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust. Years of study have shown that consuming fluoride – and applying it to the surface of the teeth – helps to protect teeth from decay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over 60% of people living in the United States get fluoride through their tap water. In some instances, the fluoride is added to the water source and in others it is naturally occurring. The optimal level of fluoridation in water is 0.7 milligrams per liter. Call your local water authority or public health department to inquire about your fluoride levels.
If you and your family drink mostly bottled water or water from a reverse osmosis filtration system, then you are probably not consuming any – or only very little – fluoride. Most bottled water has none, and the filtration systems remove most of the fluoride from tap water. Water filters such as Brita or PUR pitchers do not remove fluoride.
Why Does Fluoride Matter for Our Dental Health?
Fluoride protects teeth in two ways. When it is ingested, it strengthens the tooth’s structure. When it is applied to the surface of teeth – via toothpaste, mouth rinse, or a fluoride treatment – it creates a barrier that prevents bacteria found in plaque from breaking down tooth enamel, which over time will lead to decay and cavities.
According to the CDC: “For 70 years, people in the United States have benefited from drinking water with fluoride, leading to better dental health. Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities by about 25% in children and adults.”
Does Your Child Need a Fluoride Supplement?
To answer this question, you must first determine the age of your child and if they are consuming fluoridated water or not. Babies under the age of six months old do not need any fluoride supplementation. Only if your water supply is not fluoridated would your dentist or pediatrician prescribe a fluoride supplement – such as a vitamin, tablet or drops – for your child after the age of six months.
While it is important to start brushing baby teeth as soon as they start coming in, using a fluoride free training toothpaste for the first few years of a child’s life is recommended to prevent them from ingesting too much. Once a child has mastered the ability to spit while brushing, switch to a fluoride toothpaste, but still only use a pea-sized amount on their brush. An adult should always be present while young children are brushing with paste containing fluoride, since too much fluoride can be harmful for children.
Visit us online or call today to learn more about your child’s fluoride needs – 908-998-4698.