You may have noticed that most toothpastes today advertise that they contain an ingredient known as fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in both fresh and salt water, and it’s been proven to strengthen teeth and increase their resistance to decay. It’s especially beneficial for children, as it aids in their bone and tooth development. However, it is possible for your child to get too much fluoride.
All of this raises some questions, like: How can fluoride help my child? What’s the best way to ensure he or she is getting enough fluoride? And how do I know how much is too much?
How Fluoride Helps Your Child
When your child eats or drinks, certain acids attack the teeth. These acids appear as a byproduct when decay-causing bacteria break down sugars in the mouth, and also come directly from certain foods or beverages (like sodas and citrus fruits). When these acids eat through the protective outer layer of the teeth (the enamel), cavities are formed.
Fluoride, however, hardens tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to attack. Fluoride can even reverse early cavities that have just begun to form!
Getting Fluoride to Your Child’s Teeth
In many parts of the United States, fluoride is added to the public water supply. (For example, this is the case here in Yuba City and in most surrounding areas.) When children drink the water, they naturally ingest fluoride at the same time. Their teeth naturally absorb this fluoride, strengthening and hardening the teeth automatically.
In addition, it is good for children over a certain age to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. (ADA – American Dental Association – recommends children ages 3 to 6 years use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, and only a tiny smear for children under the age of three.)
In certain situations, your child may benefit from topical fluoride treatments, in which fluoride is applied directly to your child’s teeth, where it remains for a few minutes before being removed by the dentist.
How Much Is Too Much?
Is there such a thing as too much fluoride for your child? Yes. Enamel fluorosis is a condition resulting from fluoride overdose, which changes the appearance of the enamel. Results range from spotting to severe staining and pitting. Although not dangerous, it may require cosmetic dental work to repair.
Once your child reaches the age of 9, the permanent teeth have fully formed and the risk of fluorosis ends.
How to Decide
If you’re concerned about your child and the amount of fluoride he or she is currently receiving, feel free to contact us at the Yuba City Dentistry Group. We’ll schedule an examination and the dentist can make sure your child is getting just the right amount needed for the proper development of his or her teeth.
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