When it comes to keeping you and your kid’s teeth strong and healthy, you’ve probably heard that fluoride is the best bet. Fluoride from different sources – water, oral health care products, and professionally-applied products – can help make your teeth more resistant to acid attacks by decay-causing bacteria. But other than that, there are a whole lot of things to know about this very important mineral.
Below are some of the questions parents often ask about fluoride and how it can contribute to the good oral health of their children.
How does fluoride protect against tooth decay?
Fluoride prevents tooth decay by neutralizing the acids produced by decay-causing bacteria in the mouth, and by making the tooth enamel more resistant to these acids. And if the decay happens to be already there, this mineral helps arrest the disease process to prevent further destruction.
To reap the benefits of fluoride, make sure that your kid brushes his or her teeth with fluoride-containing toothpaste.
When can kids start using fluoride toothpaste?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids may be allowed to use fluoride toothpastes once his or her first tooth shows up.
For kids below three years of age, a smear of toothpaste should be enough while a pea-sized amount may be given for those aged three and up.
Is it safe to drink fluoridated water?
Both the ADA and AAP agree that fluoridated water is safe and also an effective way to obtain the fluoride you need for your teeth. If you can, it is advisable to check the amount of fluoride in your drinking water, as too high levels can cause fluorosis.
Fluorosis pertains to the tooth discoloration caused by too much fluoride. It often appears as white spots or brownish streaks on the tooth enamel.
In more severe cases, it even alters the surface texture of the enamel, making it rough and bumpy. You can learn more about fluorosis in this article.
Can I mix fluoridated water with infant formula?
According to the ADA, it is fine to use fluoridated water to reconstitute infant formula. If your baby is primarily fed or exclusively feeds infant formula, then there’s the risk of mild fluorosis as side effect. This won’t affect your baby’s overall health but if you’re worried, you can always consult your pediatrician or dentist for some valuable professional advice.
What are the other sources of fluoride?
Aside from fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water, you may also bring your kid to the dentist to avail of topical fluoride treatment.
Fluoride supplements are also available, but you may have to ask your dentist or pediatrician first prior to giving it to your kid. This supplement is often prescribed in kids living in areas without optimal fluoride levels in their drinking water.
Fluoride can also be obtained from food, so be sure to provide your kid with a healthy, balanced diet.
To determine your kid’s specific fluoride needs, and from which source will they get their fluoride needs best, talk to your dentist or pediatrician.