Fluoride: it’s a hot topic in the dental industry. A mineral found naturally in the bones and teeth, fluoride strengthens the teeth and works to prevent cavities. As such, many communities around the US add small quantities of fluoride to county drinking water in a process known as fluoridation.
While adults generally get adequate fluoride levels in their daily lives, kids sometimes need some help. Because of this, some dentists recommend topical fluoride treatments for kids beneath a certain age. So, what’s the story on these treatments? And are they right for your child?
Read on to learn more.
Why Fluoride is so Important
As it stands now, dental cavities are the single most prevalent disease for both kids and adults around the world. That’s a staggering statistic, and it just goes to show how important dental health is around the world. Fortunately, fluoride is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent cavities in both kids and adults.
Fluoride is a pretty simple mineral. Here’s how it works, according to the American Dental Association (ADA):
“Your mouth contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in the foods we eat and the beverages we drink. This produces acid that can wear away the hard, outer shell of your tooth (enamel). This can lead to cavities. Fluoride protects teeth by making your teeth stronger and more resistant to acid. It not only reduces the risk of cavities; it can even help reverse early signs of decay. Due to its success in preventing cavities, fluoride in water was named a top public health achievement in the 20th century.”
How Kids Get Flouride
Again, fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral. Found in water, soil, plants, rocks, and even air, fluoride surrounds us at all times. So, how does it enter our bodies, and is your child getting enough of it?
Here’s a breakdown of the most common sources of fluoride today:
Fluoridated water is inexpensive, convenient, and easily one of the best sources of fluoride for kids. In fact, all natural water sources contain some level of fluoride – be it stream water, lake water, rain water, or the drinking water that comes from a well.
If you happen to live in a community that adds fluoride to its public water supply, all that’s happening is that your child is getting the exact right dose of fluoride, as determined by the EPA. Keep in mind that not all bottled water contains fluoride, so it’s smart to check the label if you want to be sure that your child is getting enough fluoride in their daily diet.
Toothpaste With Fluoride
Toothpaste that contains fluoride is another excellent source of the mineral and will help keep your child’s mouth healthy from infancy to toddlerhood and beyond. When your child is a baby, you should use a soft cloth to wipe his or her gums and teeth. As the baby develops more teeth, you can use a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste. As the child grows, you can increase the amount of toothpaste you use – remember to encourage spitting the toothpaste, rather than swallowing it.
If your child happens to swallow a mouthful of toothpaste here and there, don’t worry too much about it. As long as you’re using a dentist-recommended amount of toothpaste and supervising brushing, so they’re not swallowing toothpaste every time, your child won’t face any adverse health impacts.
Your dentist has recommended a fluoride treatment for your child. Now, you’re wondering what this treatment is, and why it’s so important. Here’s an explanation, according to the ADA:
“Fluoride treatments prevent cavities by strengthening the hard, outer shell of teeth, and they may even reverse very early cavities that have just started forming. A fluoride treatment is quick and painless. Your dentist will paint a thin layer of fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth. Fluoride varnish is a sticky yellow or orange substance that often has a pleasant taste. The varnish application is fast and sets quickly. Your child may be advised to avoid eating or drinking for a short period (maybe 30 minutes) after the treatment. ‘
As you can see, a fluoride treatment is a simple procedure. Not only is it painless for your child, but it can work wonders to strengthen enamel and prevent or diminish cavities. If you still have doubts about the treatment, talk it over with your dentist. They’ll be able to answer any questions you might have and ensure you’re helping your child enjoy a healthy mouth.
Other Ways to Protect Your Child’s Teeth
Fluoride is a critical aspect of excellent dental health, yes, but it’s just one facet. If you want to teach good dental habits now, focus on these smart tips for your child:
- Teach good brushing habits. From an early age, kids should learn to brush their teeth at least twice a day. When kids are old enough to manage flossing, they should learn to floss regularly, as well.
- Avoid food that’s bad for teeth. Some foods are dangerous or damaging for teeth. To keep your child’s mouth healthy, learn to avoid these foods. Sticky candy, soft drinks, potato chips, fried foods, and even dried fruit can contribute to excessive sugar production in the mouth, leading to dental decay and cavities. Teach your child to opt for healthier alternatives instead.
- Discourage biting or opening objects with teeth. Just as dangerous as cavities and discoloration is breakage and fractures. With this in mind, teach your kids to ask an adult for help instead of trying to open packaging with their teeth. This will protect the mouth and reduce the risk of broken teeth.
- See your dentist frequently. Your dentist is your first line of defense when it comes to great dental health. With this in mind, ensure your child sees a dentist regularly for cleanings, checkups, and more.
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