Any dental professional would tell you the importance of ensuring your child gets enough fluoride. Unfortunately, not every parent agrees with the importance of this mineral. So, in response, some parents may feel weary about their child receiving fluoride treatment at the dentist. They may even contemplate whether or not to let their son or daughter use toothpaste containing this mineral. In reality, it’s a must for a healthy set of teeth. But the question isn’t whether or not fluoride is safe (though, it has proven itself to be in many studies). Instead, it’s whether or not your child is getting enough fluoride.
How Much Fluoride Do Children Need?
As you might expect, the younger the child and the fewer teeth they have, the less fluoride they’re going to need. But even kiddos under the age of three could benefit from it. (Although, children under the age of six months really don’t need it just yet until their first tooth begins to erupt.) Once old enough, giving them fluoride can set their baby teeth up for a healthy start. As a result, their baby teeth can create a healthy basis for their permanent teeth.
So, how much fluoride do children need anyhow?
Instead of talking numbers here, let’s give you a better idea of how much fluoride to give your children on a daily basis. The first thing you should know is that one of the greatest sources your child will encounter will be through brushing their teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. Who would have thought?
When your child is an infant, all they require at this stage is toothpaste the size of a grain of rice to brush their tooth or teeth. Not very much! As for children three and up, a pea-sized drop of toothpaste will perfectly suffice.
For skeptical parents, rest assured that this mineral has been proven to work wonders when it comes to tooth health. The only real dangers come about when it is misused or overused. Just keep an eye on your kiddo while they’re brushing to ensure they don’t swallow their toothpaste. (However, the worst it will really do in minuscule amounts is perhaps give your little one a tummyache!)
Is My Child Getting Enough Fluoride?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your child is getting enough fluoride or not. This is especially true as you don’t always have the time to see what’s going on in your kiddo’s mouth 24/7. Not to mention, you’re probably not a dental professional yourself. So, how can you really tell if they have the amount of fluoride they require?
As long as you’re following the latter guidelines regarding toothpaste, it’s possible that your child is getting what they need. Apart from toothbrushing with toothpaste, taking your child to their regular dental visits is critical. Here, their dentist will give them fluoride treatment at some point. Again, not to worry, parents: dentists are well aware of how to safely treat kids with fluoride.
Besides receiving fluoride treatment from a dentist, a dental professional can help determine if your child might need more fluoride than what they’re already receiving. They can give you, as the parent, tips on how to ensure your kid gets enough of this necessary mineral. Frequent cavities or weak enamel in children may signify to a dentist that they’re not getting their fair share of the mineral. In turn, the dentist might require your youngster to use a special fluoride rinse daily or even take a supplement.
It’s also a possibility that your child could be getting too much fluoride. This is called fluorosis. Again, a dentist will be able to diagnose this during a normal dental visit with your child. But it’s not unless you take your child to the dentist until you become aware of these things.
Sources of Fluoride that are Safe for Children
The most common ways children can reach their daily intake of fluoride is through the use of toothpaste and by drinking tap water. However, not all communities have fluoridated water. Though, bottled water often contains small amounts of fluoride too.
Another way kids can get enough fluoride is through eating certain foods.
Some foods that naturally contain fluoride include:
- Cooked oatmeal
- Grape juice
- Green peppers
Apart from drinking water, eating the right foods, and brushing one’s teeth, dentists can also, as mentioned, give fluoride treatment to children. They may even prescribe a fluoride supplement in the event that a child is deficient in this fluoride.
And apart from fluoridated toothpaste, there are other oral products on the market that contain fluoride. These might include mouth rinses, gels, foams, and varnishes.
Is My Child Getting too Much Fluoride?
While many parents worry that their child isn’t getting enough fluoride, others worry that their kid might be getting too much.
Know that it’s actually much more difficult for children to get too much fluoride than too little, that is, as long as they don’t overuse fluoridated products or swallow such.
But it doesn’t erase the fact that your child could eventually be at risk of excess fluoride. The risk of too much fluoride, or fluorosis, can most definitely occur in any child. Children who use multiple fluoride-containing products without supervision or dental recommendation are at a higher risk. (Keep your fluoridated mouthwashes, varnishes, etc. put away, so your little ones don’t get enticed or curious.) Also, kids who aren’t taught about the dangers of ingesting this mineral are also at risk.
If your child potentially has fluorosis, there are often signs and symptoms that appear.
Signs of Fluorosis
While only a dentist can diagnose your child with fluorosis, some signs might include:
- Pitted enamel
- Mottled teeth
- Strange white flecks on the teeth’s surface
- Dark brown or black stains on the teeth despite following a strict oral regime
Apart from the teeth appearing differently, in severe cases of fluorosis, symptoms might include:
- Abdominal pain
Whether you believe your child is receiving too much fluoride or not, any odd or concerning changes to the teeth are worth getting assessed.
Treatment for Fluorosis
Unfortunately, the stains fluorosis causes do not go away.
Depending on the extent of the diagnosis, a dentist may opt for a variety of different treatments. Treatments might include crowns, veneers, teeth whitening, bonding, or other cosmetic procedures. Your child’s dentist will give you options for which treatment(s) might be best or safest for your child.
But the cosmetic changes due to fluorosis aren’t the biggest concern a parent should have. Long-term, moderate to heavy ingestion can affect your child’s teeth and bones, leading to skeletal problems.
So, your best bet as a parent? Take your child to their biannual dental appointments. Keep an eye on them when they brush their teeth. Don’t provide your child fluoridated products unless they’re either recommended by a dental professional or have a label on the product saying it’s safe for children their age. Educate them on the importance of spitting and properly rinsing their mouth after brushing. (And mention that there will definitely be no swallowing, no matter how tasty a toothpaste might be!) Take them to the dentist for an emergency checkup anytime you see or hear of any concerns regarding their oral health.
Remember, fluoride is a necessary mineral, but like any other mineral or vitamin, it can provide negative effects if it’s misused or used too often. Play it safe.