In recent years, the use of fluoride treatments in children’s dental hygiene has been met with some concern. How much is enough; and can it become a potential health issue for a child if too much is ingested? However, a fundamental understanding of what fluoride is, how much is needed and what it does, should help dispel any misunderstandings that may be prevalent regarding this necessary mineral.
What is Fluoride and Why Do Kids Need it?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral usually found in food and water supplies. This means that water straight from the tap usually has fluoride present. Some communities may use water absent of fluoride but most include this mineral. If you live in a community where fluoride isn’t present in the water, supplementation may be needed. Fluoride basically acts as a protector for tooth enamel. Fluoride helps protect tooth enamel by creating a barrier against bacteria and sugars present in the mouth. It helps prevent the erosion of the enamel as well as the growth of cavities. For these reasons, the use of fluoride in small amounts is suggested as early as 6 months of age. The use of fluoride is a beneficial mineral for children in terms of maintaining healthy teeth, particularly between the ages of 6 months and 16 years old.
Amounts of Fluoride
Most public water supplies contain fluoride levels that range anywhere from 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. These levels are considered optimal. Fluoride becomes risky in high concentrations. According to Cashion Dental, the risks associated with high concentrations of fluoride vary according to a person’s weight. One of the risks associated with excessive levels of fluoride is a disorder called fluorosis. Fluorosis can result in tiny white discolorations on the teeth or can be as dramatic as large brown spots that appear on the teeth. Children under the age of 6 and babies that consume formula made with fluoridated water are more prone to fluorosis.
Role of Fluoride in Pediatric Dental Health
Clearly, some fluoride can be acquired just by drinking plenty of water, provided that any filtration used doesn’t remove minerals. This is why drinking water is an important factor when it comes to good oral health. Fluoride should also be present in toothpaste that children use during daily oral hygiene. Generally, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is enough. Additionally, during routine dental visits, topical fluoride treatments are generally non-harmful.
Truth About Fluoride
Water supplies in North America have benefited from the addition of fluoride since 1945. There has been a 20 to 40 percent reduction in tooth decay in children every since the introduction of fluoridation to water supplies. The careful use of fluoride in dental treatments for children has proven to be beneficial as well. For peace of mind, a parent need only ask questions about the levels present in fluoride treatments used during their children’s routine dental visits as well as over-the-counter dental products.
Obviously, fluoride is a beneficial mineral in terms of good oral health for children. It is not a question of whether or not we should incorporate fluoride into our dental health regime, but rather, how much is necessary to maintain good oral health. Fluoride is most often a particular concern when it comes to the very young. However, open communication with your children’s dentist’s as well as a conscious effort to pay attention to the amounts of fluoride present in oral health products should aid in safe usage.