One of the most common questions we get is whether Fluoride is safe for children. The enamel layer on our teeth is extremely important. It’s your tooth’s first defense. Your enamel contains important minerals to keep it viable and healthy. Every day your teeth gain some minerals and lose some. It’s important you don’t allow your teeth to lose too much mineral (called demineralization). If you do, you’ll develop tooth decay.
Gains Over Loses—with Fluoride
Plaque bacteria and sugars develop an acid that attacks your teeth. Fluoride helps protect your teeth from demineralization. In fact, it can even reverse early tooth decay. It’s naturally occuring in food and water. The exception to that being bottled water, which doesn’t contain fluoride. Because of that, it’s important you give your children water from the tap often. If their sole source of water comes from store bought bottled water, they’re not likely to get enough fluoride intake. It’s also in fluoridated toothpastes and can even be directly applied to your teeth through your dentist.
When Do I Need Additional Fluoride?
Though we can get fluoride in our food and water, children aged 6-16 are especially in need of extra fluoride. They should get regular treatments from their dentist. The dentist will place it on their teeth after their cleaning. It’s important they don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after the treatment.
There are times adults also need additional fluoride. If you have gum disease, you need to get a prescription level fluoride treatment. There are over-the-counter brands, but they won’t be strong enough. Dry mouth is another case where you require extra fluoride. Your saliva contains bacteria fighting minerals. If you’ve got dry mouth, you’re not producing all the saliva you need. The extra fluoride will help protect your teeth. There are also some medication that will dry out your mouth. Make sure your dentist knows what medication you’re taking so he knows when you need additional treatmnets.
But What About Fluoride Toxicity?
When fluoride is used at appropriate levels, you and your children are not only fine, but benefit from it. If you get too much, then yes, there’s a problem. So, what is too much? That’s determined mostly by weight, which is why it is especially important that you monitor the toothbrushing habits of children under six. You want to teach them not to swallow it. Because they’re young and some will get swallowed, make sure there is not more than a pea sized amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush.
The amount of fluoride in water levels is perfectly safe. But, if you use well water, you may want to have it tested. Likely, it is fine, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe. Excess fluoride can cause fluorosis. It is usually indicated by white specks or streaks. Some bad cases can have brown discoloration. Don’t assume that if you have white spots it definitively means fluorosis. It is also a sign of demineralization, which means you need more fluoride or you’re on the path to tooth decay. The key is to see your dentist, who can tell the difference.
Dr. Mike Malone and his team practice expert cosmetic dentistry in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Malone is the former president and current accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is also the official Cosmetic Dentist of the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants. Check out his website for more information.