Is Fluoride safe for my kids?

Maria Ambra, RDH

Is Fluoride safe for my kids?

Parents are often concerned and refuse fluoride applications for their children during their dentist appointment, thinking that fluoride may be toxic or be harmful.

Fluoride is a natural substance found in water that has an important role in the prevention of tooth decay; it can reverse early stages of decay and contribute to healthy tooth development.

Tooth decay is caused when bacteria, found in plaque, produces acids that dissolve the hard enamel surfaces of teeth. Cavities weaken teeth and can lead to pain, tooth loss, and even infection in the most severe cases.

Fluoride prevents tooth decay in two ways:

• When it is ingested it incorporates into the structure of developing teeth

• It protects when it comes in contact with the surface of the teeth.

Fluoride prevents the acids in our mouth from dissolving or demineralizing the enamel, which is the hard, shiny substance that protects teeth. Fluoride can often reminiralize teeth, can reverse low levels of tooth decay and prevent new cavities from forming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

• more than 25% of 2- to 5-year-olds have one or more cavities

• half of kids 12 to 15 years old have one or more cavities

• tooth decay affects two thirds of 16- to 19-year-olds

For more than 60 years, water fluoridation has proved to be a safe and cost-effective way to reduce dental caries. Today, water fluoridation is estimated to reduce tooth decay by 20%-40%.As of 2012, CDC statistics show that more than 60% of the U.S. population receives fluoridated water through the taps in their homes.

Several organizations have questioned its safety and effectiveness; however, there has been little evidence to support these concerns.

The American Dental Association (ADA), the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the World Health Organization (WHO), among many other national and international organizations, support community water fluoridation.  The CDC considered fluoridation of water as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

At what age and how much fluoride kids should have?

• Kids under the age of 6 months do not need fluoride supplements.

• Fluoride-containing toothpaste with the ADA’s seal of acceptance should be used.

• Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

• Kids under age 6 should never use fluoride-containing mouth rinses, however older kids at high risk for tooth decay may benefit from them.

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