Questions You May Have About Fluoride Treatment for Your Children

If the dentist at your family dentistry recommends fluoride treatments for your children, you may wonder if these services are safe or even effective. Read on to get answers to your questions.

What is fluoride and how does it affect oral health?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element released from rocks into air, soil, and water. In fact, all water contains some trace amounts of fluoride. However, many communities have decided to add fluoride to their water supplies because it's a cost-effective method to reduce cavities since fluoride strengthens the outer coating of teeth and works with saliva to protect enamel from plaque buildup. According to the CDC, fluoridation actually reduces tooth decay by 25% in both children and adults. However, if you don't live in a community with fluoridation, you may want to talk to your dentist about fluoride tablets for your children. These tablets have different dosages of fluoride according to your child's age.

Can children get fluoride treatments?

It's safe for children to get fluoride treatment two to four times a year, depending on your child's needs. Children can start getting these treatments when their primary teeth erupt. In the past, fluoride treatments consisted of a foamy gel in a tray, which could be difficult for people with strong gag reflexes. Fluoride treatments today are super easy to give to children because they are applied as varnishes on the surfaces of teeth. The dentist will use a brush to apply the varnish; and your child just has to wait a little while after the visit to eat, drink, or floss so the varnish can set and do its work.

What if a child ingests too much fluoride?

While fluoride treatments are safe, you have to be careful about your child ingesting too much fluoride when he or she brushes his or her teeth at home. If a child's teeth are still developing, and he or she ingests too much fluoride, he or she can develop fluorosis. This condition that causes cosmetic defects — like discoloration — on the teeth. Fluorosis isn't harmful, but your child may be unhappy with his or her teeth down the road and want cosmetic dental procedures to fix the issue.

You should use the right toothpaste for your child's age; you also don't need to put a ton of toothpaste on his or her brush for it to be effective. A dab of toothpaste the size of rice is sufficient for young children. A pea-size amount of toothpaste is good for toddlers on up.

Reach out to a family dentist in your area to learn more about fluoride treatments.