As a parent, you have most likely heard of fluoride and its dental benefits. Dentists have probably recommended fluoride treatments for your child or recommended they drink water infused with it. The truth is, it can be very helpful to the integrity of children’s teeth, preventing cavities and strengthening enamel.
As it is with everything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Consuming too much fluoride can cause problems in both children and adults, but used in the proper amounts, it has benefits for your child’s teeth.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in water, soil, plants, rocks, and air. In small amounts, it can be beneficial to the health of teeth. It can also sometimes be found in the public water supply in a process called water fluoridation. Each city decides for itself whether or not to add fluoride to its water supply. It can additionally be found in some foods, such as seafood, raisins, and potatoes.
Aside from the water supply and some foods, it is also in some brands of toothpaste and mouthwash. This is partially the reason why swallowing too much of them can be harmful. The most fluoride a toddler should have a day is 0.7 mg. For women, 3 mg, and for men, 4 mg.
Why Is Fluoride Good For My Child?
Fluoride is linked to health benefits in children and adults. With the correct dosage, your child’s tooth enamel will be strengthened and they will be less likely to experience tooth decay. The main reason it is recommended is to prevent and reverse tooth decay, which is the most prevalent disease in early childhood.
How Can I Tell If My Child Is Getting Enough Fluoride?
If your area’s water is fluoridated, your child should have no problem getting the right amount of daily fluoride.
You can check fluoride levels in your city’s water by visiting the CDC site. They have a tool that allows people to input their location and receive information on whether their water is fluoridated or not. Additional information about the water supply can be found here as well.
What Happens If My Child Doesn’t Get Enough Fluoride?
Fluoride is not required, but it is recommended for the health of children’s teeth. It can strengthen enamel and provide protection from the formation of cavities. If your child doesn’t get enough, they could experience tooth decay. However, too much at a young age can affect your child’s teeth. They may be susceptible to something called dental fluorosis.
Can My Pediatric Dentist Tell If My Child Needs More Fluoride?
Only a pediatric dentist will be able to tell if your child needs more or less fluoride. Talking to your child’s dentist and knowing the fluoride levels in your local water supply will help you know how much of it your child needs to have. Depending on the answer from your dentist, your child could have the option of a fluoride treatment. This involves painting the teeth with fluoride and letting it soak in before it’s rinsed off.
If your child’s dentist recommends it, fluoride supplements such as tablets, drops, or vitamins may be given. They may also recommend your child brush their teeth with toothpaste that contains fluoride.
For babies, you should apply fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. For kids 3 and older, use a pea-sized amount. Be sure to teach your child to spit it out instead of swallowing it.
Are There Any Dangers Of Fluoride?
For kids under age 8, too much fluoride consumption can cause something called dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is the whitening of children’s teeth due to too much fluoride. Fluorosis is not harmful and only affects how teeth look. Anyone over the age of 8 should not be worried about this occurring, as it only affects young children whose adult teeth are still emerging from their gums.
Some say that certain disabilities and conditions are linked to an overdose of fluoride, but there is no concrete scientific evidence of it. According to Healthline, multiple studies have been done on this topic. A study in 2006 concluded that fluoridated water consumption in childhood was linked to increased chances of bone cancer in men, but studies done in 2011 and 2016 respectively didn’t find any connection.
Healthline also mentions a different study done on the link between fluoridated water and low IQ scores in children. This 2012 study had mixed results, saying there may be a link, but larger and more detailed studies would need to be done.
Fluoride poisoning is also a possibility if there is extreme exposure. According to MedicalNewsToday, If you are exposed to too much of it, you can experience:
- abdominal pain
- excessive saliva
- nausea and vomiting
- seizures and muscle spasms
Fluoride poisoning is not common and usually only happens if drinking water is contaminated with an abundance of fluoride due to some kind of fire or explosion near the source.
Although fluoride can be potentially harmful in some extreme circumstances, it can be quite beneficial during the development of your child’s teeth. A pediatric dentist should be able to make recommendations for you specific to your child about using toothpaste with added fluoride and the overall quantity of it your child should have.
Overall, the benefits of fluoride are worth the risks. With the right amount, your child’s teeth will become strong and resistant to tooth decay. Visit our FAQ page to learn more.
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