Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been shown to prevent tooth decay by as much as 50 to 70%. For children younger than 8 years old, fluoride actually helps strengthen the adult teeth that are developing beneath their gums.
If they receive little or no fluoride, teeth aren’t strengthened enough to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion by young children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a white discoloration (brown in advanced cases) of the permanent teeth.
The two primary sources of fluoride are fluoridated water and toothpaste. Fluoridated water is most commonly found in local tap water. Dentists encourage drinking tap water from the sink because a number of water-dispensing refrigerators filter out as much as 90% of fluoride found in local water.
However, charcoal and carbon-type water filters such as a Brita filter retain fluoride levels found in local water while still providing filtered drinking water.
For children younger than 3 years of age, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to brush their teeth. Among children 3 to 6 years old, use a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your little one’s tooth brushing.
To ensure your child’s toothpaste contains the optimal amount of fluoride, look for the ADA seal of acceptance somewhere on the packaging. Children should not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing, in order to avoid fluorosis. Be sure to follow our team’s instructions on suggested fluoride use and possible supplements.