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Fluoride’s Role in Your Child’s Development

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a natural element that has been linked to preventing tooth decay. It can be found in water and certain foods. Fluoride is also added to some toothpaste to protect teeth from cavities.

Is fluoride good for children?

Fluoride is good for children’s teeth in small amounts. According to the American Dental Association, if your child is under the age of 3, use fluoride toothpaste no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children ages 3-6 the amount of fluoride toothpaste used should be no more than the size of a pea.

What is water fluoridation?

Water fluoridation is the process of adding fluoride to a water supply in a community so it reaches 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. The government has determined this amount of fluoride is the optimal level for preventing tooth decay. Water fluoridation began in the United States in 1945. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges community water fluoridation to be one of the most considerable achievements in public health in the 20th century.

Why is fluoride important?

Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of enamel and increasing the remineralization process. In communities with fluoridated water, rates of dental disease are dramatically lower, and recent research links fluoridated water with improved dental health and better overall health.

What happens if my child consumes too much fluoride?

If your child consumes too much fluoride they will most likely develop dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is a change of color in the tooth’s enamel caused by excessive fluoride ingestion over long periods when teeth are developing over the gums. Dental fluorosis is hard to see to the casual observer and usually requires a pediatric dentist to diagnose.

How do I treat dental fluorosis?

Fluorosis affects the appearance of the teeth. It does not result in tooth decay. Most treatment consists of concealing the stain. However, most cases of fluorosis are minor enough to not need treatment. More severe cases can be treated through tooth whitening, bonding, crowns or veneers when the child gets older.

How can I prevent fluorosis?

Use the following tips to decrease the risk of fluorosis in your child’s teeth.

  • Supervise your child when using fluoride toothpaste if he/she is under the age of 6
  • Know the fluoride concentration of your drinking water
  • Use the recommended amount of fluoride toothpaste for your child’s age
  • Avoid fluoride supplements if your child is under 6 months old

If you have any further questions about your child’s fluoride use or fluorosis, ask the dentists at Pediatric Dentistry in Des Moines and Ankeny!