One of the best defenses against tooth decay is fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance that helps harden tooth enamel and even helps teeth repair themselves. When a small cavity starts to form the body uses fluoride to reverse that process and remineralize the tooth. You can get the fluoride you need in two ways: topically (through direct contact with the teeth) and systemically (by ingesting it so it enters the bloodstream).
Today in the U.S. most of us get the fluoride we need through a combination of topical and systemic fluoride. We brush with fluoride toothpaste and drink fluoridated tap water. If it were not for fluoride, very few of us would still have our natural teeth into our later years.
Children need fluoride from birth to about 16 years of age. They get some from tap water but we also provide fluoride treatments as part of regular dental care in the office. Once your child is old enough to spit toothpaste out (as opposed to swallowing it) you can begin using a children’s toothpaste with fluoride.
HOW TO USE FLOURIDE SAFELY
Fluoride is so ubiquitous in our lives that we don’t realize that it is a chemical compound and getting too much can be a problem. Be sure that your child doesn’t experience any adverse effects from fluoride, and follow these basic rules:
- Keep an eye on your kids while they brush or use any fluoridated substances.
- An amount of toothpaste the size of a small pea is more than enough.
- If you use fluoridated rinses or mouthwash, keep them out of reach of your kids.
- Make sure that fluoridated products are not swallowed.
- Don’t give children under 6 years old any fluoridated products such as mouth rinses.
- If you suspect that your child has ingested fluoride, treat it as any other poisoning episode and call 911 right way.