Do you remember doing fluoride rinses in elementary school? Well, all that swishing really did make a difference!
Studies have shown that supervised fluoride treatments result in a 27% reduction in decayed, missing and filled tooth surfaces in the permanent teeth of children.
We found that parents who used fluoride toothpaste or rinses as children still have questions about the effectiveness of fluoride treatments. Read on for our answers to some of the most common questions.
How does fluoride protect my child’s teeth?
Fluoride is not a synthetic substance. It is, in fact, a naturally occurring mineral.
Fluoride helps the teeth reabsorb calcium and phosphate to repair weak tooth enamel. It also bonds with teeth to make them less vulnerable to bacteria and cavities.
Isn’t the fluoride in toothpaste and tap water enough?
Most tap water in America contains small amounts of fluoride to reduce tooth decay. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that adding fluoride to tap water has reduced tooth decay by about 25%.
Professional fluoride treatments administered by pediatric dentists contain a higher concentration of fluoride. The dentist or hygienist will apply the solution (gel, foam, or varnish) directly to a child’s teeth.
These treatments are recommended because the high concentration of fluoride offers more rapid benefits than fluoridated water or toothpaste.
Is fluoride safe for children?
You may have heard other parents sharing concerns about the impact of high doses of fluoride on brain development. However, the current amounts of fluoride used in community drinking water (0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water) to help prevent tooth decay is very low risk.
Possible side effects of extreme levels of fluoride use include tooth discoloration, allergies, and skin irritation.
Tooth discoloration, also known as fluorosis, appears as white streaks on the teeth. Fluorosis happens when a child ingests too much fluoride while their baby and adult teeth are developing under the gums (birth to 8 years old).
The following recommendations reduce the risk of overexposure to fluoride:
- Caregivers should be the ones brushing children’s teeth with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste to reduce decay and minimize the risk of fluorosis (tooth discoloration).
- For children under 3 years of age, use no more than a smear or rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- For children aged 3–6, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise a child’s brushing to ensure they use the right amount of toothpaste, and try to get them to spit out most of it if they can.
- Children under 6 years old should not use at-home fluoride rinses, such as mouthwash, since they may swallow too much fluoride.
How often should my child receive fluoride treatments?
Both the CDC and the ADA (American Dentistry Association) recommend frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride every day in order to reduce the risk of dental cavities.
For most people, this means drinking tap water and brushing teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.
For children who may be at a higher risk of cavities, fluoride treatments can prevent decay, pain, and future dental infections. Pediatric dentists may offer fluoride treatments every 3–6 months, depending on a child’s risk of cavities.
To minimize any possible risks, pediatric dentists use professional fluoride varnish on children under 6 years old. Fluoride varnish is preferred for young children because they may swallow foams or gels.
In January 2021, all new patients 4 years old and younger receive a FREE fluoride treatment with their dental cleaning. Give us a call at 336-887-9277 to claim this special deal.
Bonus: if your child is under 2, the first visit is always free!