What’s all the buzz about fluoride?
Between some people wondering if fluoride is toxic and your dentist asking you and your family to use it, things can get confusing.
You might be hesitant to give your child something that’s rumored to be unhealthy for them. But if it’s something that can help improve and sustain their health, you don’t want to miss out on it, either.
Fluoride is safe and effective for your family’s oral health. We’re here to put your mind at ease with the facts on fluoride — we’ll cover what exactly it is, why it’s useful, and more on why it’s important for you and your family’s dental health.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral found in your teeth and bones, as well as in water, soil, rocks, plants, and even air.
It’s been used to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay for around 90 years! In the 1930s, studies revealed that children who had access to natural fluoridated water had less tooth decay than people who didn’t.
Studies ever since have shown the same results.
The National Toxicology Program, for example, released a study on May 18th, 2020 showing that there still have been zero health risks associated with fluoridated water or exposure to it otherwise.
How Does Fluoride Help Your Teeth?
Tooth decay is caused by a buildup of bacteria on your teeth. This bacteria feeds on any sugars and carbohydrates in your mouth, producing an acidic saliva that eats away at your teeth’s enamel (the hard coating on the outer layer of your tooth).
Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen the enamel and protect your teeth from the damage acidic saliva can cause, also known as tooth decay.
Not only can tooth decay cost you a lot of money in dental care in the future, but it can also cause other serious health issues, such as teeth falling out early which can lead to new teeth growing in crowded.
When fluoride mixes with saliva, it easily bonds to the calcium and phosphate in your teeth. This combination creates fluorapatite, a protective coating on the tooth that helps keep bacteria from building up on your teeth.
Is Fluoride Bad for Your Health?
Not at all! Fluoride isn’t bad for your health, your teeth, or your brain. In fact, the opposite is true.
Fluoride occurs in nature, and is already part of the makeup of our bones and teeth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fluoride has proven to not only be effective in the prevention of tooth decay, but it’s also completely safe for you and your kids.
In fact, it’s so effective in preventing tooth decay that for the last 70 years, the CDC has named it one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
There’s been no convincing scientific evidence that fluoride in the water causes any health issues. It’s even been proven safe for fish, plants, and other organisms.
Fluoride Use for Children
Fluoride is recommended for use as soon as your child gets their first tooth by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Pediatric Dentists and the American Dental Association.
It’s very important for kids age 6 months and up to use fluoride, as it helps them build strong, healthy, permanent teeth. The benefits of using fluoride continue into adulthood.
How to Use Fluoride
Just like anything recommended by your kid’s dentist, orthodontist, or doctor, use fluoride as directed.
When your child’s first tooth arrives, you can start by rubbing their teeth with a tiny bit of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. For children ages 3 through 12 years old, they can use a pea size amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush.
Be sure to supervise young children when they brush their teeth to prevent them from swallowing the toothpaste. Too much toothpaste can cause an upset stomach and fluorosis.
Fluorosis is a term for when there’s a bit too much fluoride in the system, causing one or more small white spots on the teeth. These spots occur before the age of 8, and are mostly only cosmetic.
But don’t worry, no matter how much water your child drinks, it’s highly unlikely they’ll get fluorosis from the water due to strict EPA restrictions.
Types of Fluoride Treatments
Sometimes, a dentist will recommend an increased use of fluoride for your child’s teeth. Things like gum disease, frequent cavities, and dry mouth conditions can be treated with fluoride.
Similarly, people with crowns or braces are typically recommended fluoride treatment for added tooth protection.
Besides toothpaste, fluoride can come in a few different forms:
- Fluoridated mouth rinses (stronger concentrations will require a doctor’s approval)
- Varnishes, a fluoride “finish” that’s painted on to teeth
- Foams applied via mouth guard and kept there for 4-5 minutes
- Gels, which can either be painted on or applied using a mouth guard as well
- Liquid or tablet supplements that require a prescription
No matter which treatment your child’s dentist may recommend, know they’ve all been tested and proven to be safe.
While fluoride can be a hot topic, it’s important to wade through the buzz of the internet to get to the facts — especially when it concerns your child’s dental health.
Fluoride is a mineral found all around us, and has been a tried and true method for helping keep teeth strong and healthy for decades.