Fluoride

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a compound that contains fluorine, a natural element. Using small amounts of fluoride on a routine basis can help prevent tooth decay. In areas where fluoride does not occur naturally, it may be added to the community water supplies. Research shows that community water fluoridation has lowered decay rates by over 50%, which means that fewer children grow up with cavities. Fluoride can be found as an active ingredient in many dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, gels and varnish.

How safe is fluoride?

Using fluoride for the prevention and control of decay is proven to be both safe and effective. Numerous studies over the past 60 years have shown that fluoride at recommended levels is not only safe, but provides significant health benefits. Nevertheless, products containing fluoride should be stored out of the reach of young children. Too much fluoride could cause fluorosis of developing permanent teeth. Fluorosis is usually mild, with tiny white specks or streaks that are often unnoticeable. In severe cases of fluorosis, the enamel may be pitted with brown discoloration. Development of fluorosis depends on the amount, duration and timing of excessive fluoride intake.

What type of toothpaste should my child use?

Your child should use toothpaste with fluoride. Brushing twice a day (after breakfast and before bedtime) provides greater benefits than brushing once daily. Parents should dispense toothpaste to prevent their young children from swallowing too much.

How much toothpaste should my child use?

For children under 2 years old, a smear amount of fluoridated toothpaste. For those aged 2 to 5 years, a pea-sized amount is recommended.

Does my child need fluoride supplements?

Most city water is fluoridated and is an adequate source of systemic (ingested) fluoride. If your family uses well water or bottled water, you should have your water tested to see if there is adequate natural fluoride, or if a fluoride supplement is needed. Check with your local Health Department or bottled water manufacturer for testing. If adequate fluoride is not present, your child may need a prescription fluoride supplement from your dentist.

Topical fluoride (applied to tooth enamel) is provided by fluoridated toothpastes and rinses. Additional fluoride treatments are applied as needed by your dentist during regular check-ups.

Information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)