It has been recognized for many years that fluoride can improve the strength of teeth by either being incorporated into the growing tooth structure from ingestion or as a layer of protection added to teeth already in the mouth. We get fluoride from many sources:
- Tap water. Our local water supply here in The Colony is fluoridated at about 0.65 parts per million, which is in the recommended range of 0.5 to 1 parts per million (see this chart from The Colony’s 2012’s water quality report to learn more). That’s just enough to be beneficial for making teeth significantly stronger than without fluoride. Tap water doesn’t do much for adult teeth, but when your child’s teeth are still forming inside the bone they are able to incorporate these tiny amounts of fluoride into the tooth structure which helps to condense the molecules of the tooth crystals, making them more dense and therefore more resistant to cavities. Once your child has all of their permanent teeth the benefit of fluoride in tap water ceases to be important.
- Toothpaste. The fluoride in your toothpaste is designed only to be used for preventing cavities of teeth already in your mouth by strengthening the teeth from the outside in. Most major brands of toothpaste in the United States contain the recommended amounts of fluoride. These should not be used by children under the age of three, however, because toothpaste is likely to be swallowed by toddlers and the dose is much, much higher than that which is recommended for building teeth from the inside out when they are growing. Use a fluoride-free toothpaste designed for small children instead.
- Prescription fluoride drops. These can be obtained from your pediatrician, although because of the abundance of fluoride in our community water, Dr. Rossen doesn’t regularly recommend the need for this supplement.
- Mouthwash. More and more mouth rinses have fluoride added to them, and they can be as beneficial as fluoride toothpaste, without the abrasion and toothbrushing necessary to coat your teeth with its protection. Children under 6 should not use mouthwash, as they could also swallow it.
- Prescription fluoride toothpaste. If you have a history of active tooth decay we may send you home with a prescription for a more concentrated fluoride toothpaste than you can purchase over the counter. It does not heal large cavities, but it can help strengthen teeth that are in the beginning stages of tooth decay and can prevent them from needing treatment.
- Professionally applied fluoride treatments. At the end of your child’s dental appointment, we routinely recommend that a layer of fluoride protection should be placed on their teeth. The types of fluoride we use include foam tray inserts as well as paint-on fluoride varnish. While these treatments are normally given twice per year, check with Dr. Rossen for your child’s specific needs. Some adults can benefit from in-office fluoride treatments as well.
Not all kids’ teeth are in desperate need of fluoride in order to grow strong and stay strong, but because of its proven effectiveness and safety, we are confident in using fluoride wisely to prevent the majority of dental decay that plagued so many kids and parents only a few decades ago. If you have any other concerns or questions about fluoride and its role in your child’s dental health we invite you to call us at 469-656-7265.