Is Fluoride for Babies Safe and How to Use It?
Fluoride is an element that naturally occurs in water, air, and soil. Countless studies and researches suggest fluoride has numerous benefits on dental health, both in children and adults, when used correctly, of course. But how to know exactly how much fluoride is safe to use, especially when it comes to our little ones?
What Is the Role of Fluoride in Children’s Dental Health?
This mineral has proven to have numerous positive effects on kids’ dental health, including preventing and even reversing early stages of cavities, strengthening and remineralizing weakened tooth enamel, and reducing plaque bacteria in a mouth. Some public water systems in the U.S. are fluoridated as a part of a general effort to prevent cavities and tooth decay, and community water fluoridation has been shown to reduce tooth decay by 25%, according to Healthy Children.
Fluoride Toothpaste for Babies
Both breastmilk and formula contain sugars, so as soon as the baby gets their first tooth, they can get cavities as well. Before their teeth get in, you can wipe their mouth with a soft cloth to remove plaque-causing bacteria and make sure they have a healthy mouth before their teeth erupt.
Once their first tooth appears, you should start using a small toothbrush and brush your baby’s tooth/teeth with just a smear of fluoride toothpaste until they’re 3. After that, you can slowly increase the amount of toothpaste to a rice-grain size. To reduce the risk of swallowing toothpaste, you can try to angle your baby’s head a bit down to make sure any excess toothpaste comes out of their mouth. If they swallow some, they should be fine (in the worst case, it might upset their stomach a bit), but make sure you’re following the official recommendations on the amounts of toothpaste we mentioned above.
The use of fluoride for babies and children still causes heated debates in the dentistry circles, but the American Dental Association recommends using fluoride toothpaste for babies and kids. Nowadays, there is a considerable number of toothpaste and mouthwash brands that have fluoride variants for children. However, keep in mind that the tap water we drink contains far less fluoride than toothpaste, so you should make sure your kid doesn’t swallow it when they brush.
What You Should Know about Fluoride Use if Your Baby is Breastfed or Formula-fed?
If your baby is younger than six months, they don’t need any fluoride supplements if they are breastfed, and you don’t need to mix formula with fluoridated water if that’s the primary source of a baby’s nutrition. It’s not a harmful thing to do, but it carries a small risk of dental fluorosis, according to the CDC.
Dental Fluorosis and Spitting Reflex
One of the most common problems that might appear due to more-than-recommended consumption of fluoride in children is dental fluorosis, which is a purely cosmetic and painless dental issue. Sometimes it’s barely visible and only the dentist can detect it, but sometimes it can be quite pronounced with numerous white or discolored lines or spots. Dental fluorosis usually develops before teeth erupt and due to a child’s inability to spit out toothpaste efficiently. Namely, this reflex isn’t fully developed until a child reaches their third birthday. This means that they can’t brush independently and need our constant supervision and help to do it properly.
Fluoride Treatments for Children
Nowadays, there are also fluoride treatments available for children and babies that should provide them with an extra layer of protection, slow down tooth decay, and even reverse the initial phase of cavities. Your baby will get their first fluoride varnish starting when they are six months old. These treatments are usually covered by various dental insurance plans and also fall within the category of affordable preventative dental treatments.
To Sum It Up
Every parent wants only the best for their baby and that’s completely understandable. The American Dental Association says it’s safe to use fluoride toothpaste for babies, but you should use it properly. However, there’s no denying that babies and toddlers under 3 years can’t really understand they shouldn’t swallow toothpaste (which can cause dental fluorosis) and might require constant parental supervision and assistance when it comes to brushing. Because of that, you might want to pick a fluoride-free option just to be on the safe side and that’s fine, too. If you still have any concerns regarding the use of fluoride for babies, you should consult your pediatric dentist and allow them to clear your doubts.
Have you started using a fluoride toothpaste for your baby yet? Do you agree it’s good for our little ones or you’d rather opt for fluoride-free options? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!