The Truth About Fluoride and Children

Although it has been debated, fluoride in correct doses is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent tooth decay. If you are a parent, you should know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recently changed their recommendations for fluoride last year. The AAP issued the following new guidelines:

  • Fluoridated toothpaste is recommended for all children starting at tooth eruption, regardless of caries risk.
  • A smear (the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste should be used up to age three. After the third birthday, a pea-sized amount may be used. Parents should dispense toothpaste for young children and supervise and assist with brushing.
  • Fluoride varnish is recommended in the primary care setting every 3–6 months starting at tooth emergence.
  • Over-the counter fluoride rinse is not recommended for children younger than six years due to risk of swallowing higher-than-recommended levels of fluoride.

Parents should be careful about making sure children receive no more than the recommended amount of toothpaste. Eating or drinking too much fluoride can result in fluorosis, a problem for children whose permanent teeth are still developing under the gums.

How Does Fluoride Work?

Recent research indicates that fluoride is primarily effective in the way it coats the teeth and is absorbed. Essentially, your tooth enamel is a mineral matrix that contains mostly hydroxyapatite, which is composed of calcium and phosphate. Fluoride has a remineralization effect on your tooth enamel, which helps to protect against cavities. Put simply, when fluoride is added, it makes hydroxyapatite harder and more resistant to acid breakdown. Your teeth are exposed to fluoride in four ways: fluoridated beverages and foods, toothpaste, mouth rinses and fluoride varnishes from the dentist.

If you are unsure if you or your children are getting the appropriate amount of fluoride, you should talk to your dentist. The dentists at Park South Dentistry can determine your unique smile needs and ensure your child’s teeth are protected using the most effective and safe methods.

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