What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a compound that contains fluorine, a natural element. Fluoride exists in water, eggs, fish, meat and tea. Using small amounts of fluoride on a routine basis can help prevent tooth decay. In areas where fluoride does not occur naturally, it may be added to community water supplies. Research shows that community water fluoridation has lowered decay rates by over 50 percent, which means children grow up with fewer cavities.
How Does Fluoride Prevent Cavities?
Fluoride inhibits loss of mineral from tooth enamel and promotes the uptake of new mineral into the teeth. This can strengthen areas that are beginning to develop cavities. Fluoride also affects bacteria that cause cavities, discouraging acid attacks that break down the teeth. Brushing with fluoride-containing toothpaste twice a day and flossing goes a long way to preventing tooth decay. It is recommended that you brush prior to going to bed so the fluoride can remain on your teeth during the night. Do not rinse after brushing! This just washes away the beneficial fluoride you just applied. Instead, spit out any excess toothpaste.
Fluoride Treatment Process
In fluoride treatments, children and adults are given relatively high concentrations of fluoride. Your dentist will dry the teeth, then paint the fluoride on as a clear varnish. Your child can eat and drink immediately following the application of fluoride varnish. She should avoid crunchy foods like pretzels, and hot beverages like hot chocolate, for several hours to maintain a thin layer of fluoride on the teeth.
How Safe is Fluoride?
Using fluoride for the prevention and control of tooth decay is proven to be safe and effective. Still, fluoride-containing products should be stored out of the reach of young children. A very large dose of fluoride taken internally (as opposed to topically, on the teeth) can be toxic. Over time, ingestion of too much fluoride can cause fluorosis of developing permanent teeth. Fluorosis usually shows up as mild, white specks or streaks in the enamel.
What Type of Toothpaste Should My Child Use?
Your child should use toothpaste with fluoride and the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, unless directed otherwise by your child’s dentist. A parent should dispense the toothpaste, and brush for the child at least until the age of 8 (third grade). This is the earliest age that most children develop the necessary fine motor skills to brush independently. For children under the age of two, use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). For those between the ages of 2 and 5, use a pea-sized amount.