You probably know that fluoride is important to your oral health and can be found in most public water sources in the United States. But what about fluoride treatments? Here, we’ll explain what fluoride is, how it works, and if kids need fluoride treatments.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in many foods and water supplies, and is even found in the earth’s crust. Fluoride is vital to reducing tooth decay, and is especially important in protecting young children from developing cavities when their enamel is still developing. It is added to public drinking water because research has shown that those who grow up drinking water with fluoride in it have less cavities than those who don’t drink fluoridated water. (Learn more about fluoride at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Campaign for Dental Health website.)
How Does Fluoride Work?
In children, fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and cavities by combining with calcium and phosphate to harden their developing teeth before they emerge through their gums. These teeth will then be more resistant to decay later in the child’s life.
Even after a child’s permanent teeth have erupted, fluoride continues to strengthen their teeth through a process called remineralization. When you eat, the bacteria in your mouth digest your dietary sugars and produce acids that can weaken and demineralize your enamel. The fluoride, calcium, and phosphate found in your saliva is absorbed into the crystalline mineral structure of your enamel to reharden it and reverse soft spots of early-stage tooth decay.
What Are Fluoride Treatments?
Fluoride treatments can be given to anyone to help prevent tooth decay and cavities, but they are especially great for children who have a history of tooth decay. During a fluoride treatment, the fluoride varnish is painted with a special brush onto the teeth. It’s best to avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after the treatment, and to not brush or floss for at least four to six hours so that the fluoride can sink into your teeth.
Do Kids Need Fluoride Treatments?
Bring your child for a dental checkup by their first birthday and every subsequent six months so we can monitor their oral health and developing teeth. At each visit, we will examine their teeth and determine if they need a fluoride treatment. And at home, be sure to brush their teeth every day with a child’s toothbrush and a tiny bit of fluoridated toothpaste–about the size of a grain of rice. Starting off small is important since you don’t want your child to swallow too much fluoride. It’s no cause for alarm, but excessive exposure can cause a harmless cosmetic condition called fluorosis. When your child is three years old and can spit, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
More Questions? We Have Answers!
If you have more questions about fluoride or fluoride treatments, get in touch with our friendly team!