Is Fluoride Bad for Toddlers?


Many know that there is differing information surrounding fluoride. Some believe in its importance. On the other hand, a decent chunk of people firmly believes that fluoride is harmful to the teeth. Yet, for decades, dentists have been vouching for the use of fluoride alongside our regular dental routines. Studies have even shown the benefits of fluoride on the teeth. Yet, parents worry about the potentially harmful effects of fluoride while others believe fluoride is simply a “waste” and is completely unnecessary. So, it’s no wonder that so many parents ask pediatric and family dentists, “Is fluoride bad for toddlers?” The only thing dental health professionals can do is clear up these misconceptions and let parents in on the vitality of this tooth-healthy mineral.

Is Fluoride Bad for Toddlers?

If you want a simple answer to this common dental question, the answer is a general: no. In fact, fluoride is very healthy for toddlers and their growing primary teeth.

You might be wondering, what makes fluoride healthy? Well, it is the mineral that help prevent cavities. This naturally occurring mineral is capable of preventing decay by strengthening the enamel layer of the teeth. And, the enamel layer is critical in protecting the teeth as it acts as a shield for our pearly whites.

Without fluoride, toddlers are at a much higher risk of developing tooth decay in near future. Tooth decay in the baby teeth doesn’t always worry parents; however, it should. Cavities can cause tooth pain in your little ones, as if they need more dental pain. (Growing new teeth is already painful enough.) Not to mention, tooth decay means it’s time to make a trip to the dentist. Here, the dentist will either drill and fill your child’s tooth or even pull it out depending on the extent of the damage. These treatments can, unfortunately, trigger dental anxiety in your kiddo and leave a bad taste in their mouths regarding the dentist. (And if a tooth had to be pulled, leaving them with a gap, this can negatively affect your little one for years until they begin to develop their adult teeth. It can affect their social life, talking, and eating. Talk about embarrassing and inconvenient for a child!) To top it off, a trip to the dentist means time out of work for you and money lost.

That being said, the answer is, “Is fluoride bad for toddlers?” is an absolute no. If fluoride can really help avoid the latter inconveniences, it’s certainly better to say “yes” to fluoride when it comes to your toddler.

How Much Fluoride Do Toddlers Need?

Because fluoridate products like toothpaste already contain the right amount of fluoride, and most communities’ water supplies contain fluoride, it’s not as difficult as it might seem to ensure your toddler gets enough fluoride daily. They really only need less than a milligram of fluoride on a daily basis.

As soon as your little one gets their first tooth, fluoridate-containing toothpaste is a must. At this stage, all he or she needs is just a tiny smear of toothpaste. We’re talking the size of a grain of rice. No worries, parents: toothpaste contains well less than a percent of fluoride. So, even if your kiddo brushes, say, three instead of two times a day, it’s not likely they’ll get too much fluoride to the point where they’d be in critical danger or experience noticeable harm to their teeth. And since toddlers have yet to master the skill of gargling and rinsing out their toothpaste after brushing, it’s a-ok if your toddler swallows a bit of toothpaste here and there. (But teach them the importance of spitting now; they’ll learn as time goes on.) However, as your child gets older and uses larger amounts of toothpaste, it’s even more critical to teach them how to properly rinse. Those using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste or more per brushing session are at a higher risk of getting too much fluoride if, say, they swallow their toothpaste regularly.

Making Sure Your Toddler Gets Enough Fluoride Isn’t as Hard as You Think

For the most part, don’t worry too much if your child is getting enough or too much fluoride if you’re doing everything you’ve been told. After all, your child’s pediatric dentist will let you know if something seems off.

As long as your toddler is using fluoride-containing toothpaste (and not too much), brushing twice a day, and drinking fluoridated water, they’re likely getting the right amount of fluoride. Also, it’s advised to keep fluoridated products out of reach of toddlers. (Toddlers are known for being curious and sneaky!) You wouldn’t want them to get way more than their recommended daily dose.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Fluoride?

There really is such a thing as “too much” when it comes to pretty much anything in life. A homemade dish can be oversalted. You can get too much sun exposure during a sunbathing session, hence a sunburn as a result. And, yes: even a child has the potential to be getting too much fluoride.

When it comes to fluoride, less is not more, and more is not necessarily better (unless there is a deficiency). Rather, moderation is key. And for the most part, toddlers get a healthy amount of fluoride daily. It’s also relatively rare for a youngster to get too much fluoride. Most parents are careful with the amount of toothpaste they give their child. Also, many parents teach their toddler about spitting their toothpaste out, even if their kid isn’t yet an expert. Teaching them to spit out their toothpaste sooner than later is a good idea. (You know, just in case!)

The Potential Harms of too Much Fluoride

It’s still possible for fluoride to be taken in excess. Excess fluoride intake is called fluorosis. White specks or dark streaks on the teeth may signify that your little one has too much fluoride. Fluorosis can also present itself as pitting in the enamel. Normally, fluorosis causes aesthetic problems to the teeth.

This condition most commonly occurs when too much toothpaste is used, older kids fail to rinse and spit their toothpaste, or youngsters get ahold of fluoridated products without their parents’ knowledge. These issues, however, are easy to avoid. We said it before, and we’ll say it again. Be mindful of the amount of toothpaste you put on your kiddo’s brush. Teach spitting out toothpaste as early as possible (but don’t freak out if your toddler has trouble in the beginning). And, keep those fluoride-containing products out of your kid’s reach. It’s easier than it sounds!

Sources of Fluoride for Kids

As you already know, fluoride can be found in most public city water supplies. It can also be found in products like toothpaste and mouthwashes.

What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that fluoride is also in food. Foods that contain fluoride include, but are not excluded to, spinach, potatoes, grapes, oatmeal, cottage cheese, and rice. It’s not always easy getting toddlers to eat these foods. However, surely, there’s something they’ll come to love. A lot of it comes down to how you prepare and present these foods to your little ones.

Apart from these sources of fluoride, another way for your child to get fluoride is to get fluoride treatments at their pediatric dentist. Dentists normally do this twice a year. Luckily, these treatments are super easy and painless. These treatments involve a simple fluoride foam or varnish and help give your kid an extra boost of fluoride for healthy teeth.

So, is fluoride bad for toddlers? Not at all; they need it! All of these sources together are critical for toddlers and young children. That being said, parents, make sure your toddler or young child is getting these sources. Their teeth will thank you.