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Fluoride and Oral Health

Fluoride is an important protective component of good oral health and the health of our bones. Understanding what fluoride is, how it fosters the growth and maintenance of healthy teeth, and how much of it is appropriate for children of different ages can support the improvement and maintainance of good oral health.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a compound that helps protect oral health by combating the damaging acids that build up on teeth and cause cavities. There are many ways we receive fluoride, including treated water. The American Academy of Dental Pediatrics (AADP) reports a 50 percent decrease in cavities from fluoridation of our water alone.

Fluoride is also found in toothpaste, gels, and foams, however not every child needs a fluoride supplement. Choosing an American Dental Academy (ADA) approved toothpaste may offer a sufficient amount of fluoride to a child. The best way to know if your child is receiving an appropriate amount of fluoride is to keep up with regular visits to a pediatric dentist.

Striking a Balance

While it's possible to have a fluoride deficiency, children can also ingest too much fluoride. Children of different ages require different amounts of fluoride, which is why the AADP recommends using just a "smear" or toothpaste for babies up to 2 years of age, and approximately a "pea-sized" amount for children 2-5 years old. For teens, the National Institute of Health recommends approximately three times as much. Over-ingestion of fluoride can result in fluorosis, resulting in mild to moderate discoloration in permanent teeth. For babies and very young children, parents should make sure that children are spitting out toothpaste (and not swallowing it) after they finish brushing.

During an examination with a pediatric dentist, a child may receive additional fluoride treatments if needed. These treatments can include gels or foams applied to the teeth for several minutes. These are especially helpful for children who have had cavities in the past, or those who commonly eat or drink sugary substances.

Understanding fluoride and its appropriate use is an important way to protect your child's teeth. Brushing twice daily with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste, and visiting a pediatric dentist every six months to determine if a child is receiving the appropriate amount of fluoride, can guard teeth against cavity-causing acids and tooth decay throughout childhood.

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