The Truth about Fluoride

Your dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment for your children during their regular preventative appointment. Many parents wonder why fluoride is necessary and whether there are any risks involved in fluoride treatment.

To understand the dental benefits of fluoride, we must first understand the process of tooth decay. Acids are produced by plaque and sugars in the mouth. When acid comes in contact with tooth enamel, it results in demineralization, or a breakdown and compromising of the protective enamel coating of the tooth. When minerals like calcium and fluoride are deposited, the enamel is remineralized, or restored. Minerals like fluoride can even repair a small cavity in some cases. When demineralization occurs and the enamel is not remineralized, decay subsequently results.

Children can get some of the fluoride necessary to keep their teeth healthy by drinking tap water in a fluoridated community and by brushing their teeth at least twice daily with American Dental Associate approved fluoride toothpaste. Children who drink only bottled water and infants whose parents use bottled water to make formula may need fluoride supplementation.

Consuming too much fluoride can pose health risks. A few good reminders to manage fluoride intake include:

• Always ask a doctor before supplementing your child's fluoride intake
• Don't allow children who are too young to spit out toothpaste to use fluoride toothpaste
• Monitor the amount of toothpaste used by older children; only a pea-size portion is recommended

Children ages six months to sixteen years of age have a critical need for fluoride to protect the development and strength of their teeth as they come in. Fluoride plays an equally important role in strengthening teeth as they develop as it does in fighting decay.

As a general rule, your children should have their teeth cleaned approximately every six months. Your child's dentist should be eager to answer your questions and concerns regarding fluoride and dental health.

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