Why Is Fluoride of Crucial Importance for Your Child’s Dental Health?
It appears that the term “fluoride” still raises some eyebrows, especially among concerned parents who wish to provide the best possible start in life for their children. That’s why we decided to investigate the facts regarding fluoride’s presence in water, its use in preventative dental care treatments, as well as some historical facts about community water fluoridation, fluoride overdose, and its side-effects. Now we want to share our knowledge on the topic with you to help you make better-informed decisions when it comes to your child’s dental health.
What is Fluoride?
A mineral naturally present in bones and teeth, fluoride can also be found in water, soil, plants, rock, etc. The use of this substance is very common in dentistry, as a part of preventative dental care treatments for both children and adults. In very small amounts (around 0.7 parts per million (ppm), the maximum allowed in water systems as of 2015), fluoride is added to public water systems because numerous studies proved it reduces cavities, which is the most common dental health issue in children. That said, more than 80% of Americans enter their adult years with this dental problem.
Why is It So Important?
Fluoride is one of the best ways to ensure dental health for children and adults alike. It protects teeth by remineralizing weakened tooth enamel, which is an outer shell of our teeth. Our teeth become stronger and able to protect us from acid, which is a bacterial metabolic byproduct of eating and drinking sugary foods and beverages. Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to this acid, which repeatedly attacks enamel, causing cavities and other forms of tooth decay.
Moreover, fluoride can even reverse early signs of cavities. Thanks to its success when it comes to tooth decay, adding fluoride to public water systems was named one of the top public health achievements of the 20th century.
The studies on the benefits of fluoride in fighting tooth decay are numerous indeed. For instance, a New York study from 2010 showed that children living in low-income families from less fluoridated counties needed 33% more dental fillings, root canals, and extractions than those living in fluoridated counties. At this moment, when around 100 million Americans lack dental insurance, it’s the general opinion that fluoridated water offers a cheap and efficient way to keep cavities in check.
As with many other substances out there, consuming fluoride in large doses can cause some side-effects.
One of the most common is dental fluorosis, which occurs when a child accidentally consumes more than recommended amounts of fluoride while teeth are still forming under their gums. One symptom is white spots on the surface of teeth, but these aren’t harmful. This happens because children are more likely to swallow toothpaste. One possible way to prevent it is by providing parental supervision while children are brushing their teeth to make sure they are using the right amounts of toothpaste and don’t swallow it because fluoride toothpaste contains significantly more fluoride than fluoridated water. Nevertheless, fluoride toothpaste is still recommended for babies and toddlers by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Dental Association.
On the other hand, there were some confirmed cases of skeletal fluorosis, which is the same as dental fluorosis – but it’s more serious as it affects bones and joints – in the U.S. however, these incidents are quite rare. The most famous is the case of a 52-year-old man who suffered from skeletal fluorosis due to swallowing incredible amounts of toothpaste.
Also, some claim that fluoridated water causes bone cancer, kidney problems, lower IQ in children, etc. but more research is needed as studies so far have been few and they provided mixed or vague results that most will agree to be inconclusive.
A Few Facts About Fluoride Treatment for Children
Fluoride treatment is an affordable preventative dental care measure that helps strengthen the enamel of children’s teeth that may even reverse early cavities. A dentist or a dental hygienist will apply a concentrated amount of fluoride on your child’s teeth and then you wait for a few minutes to allow it to work. This treatment is quick, painless, and is covered by many children’s dental insurance plans.
As with any other compound out there, fluoride overdose is not without its risks. However, the fact is that we’re also consuming unhealthy, sugary foods and opting for non-tested cosmetic products without giving it much thought at all, so excess fluoride ingestion is really way down the list. If you still have concerns regarding fluoride amounts in tap water, toothpaste, and other oral hygiene products, as well as ways it could affect your child’s health, we suggest you have a conversation with your dentist to help you clear any doubts.
What is your opinion on fluoride? Do you use fluoridated oral health products for your family or you rather pick something else? Don’t be reluctant to share your thoughts below!