Cavities used to be a fact of life. But now that fluoride is readily available, tooth decay has been significantly reduced. Fluoride dramatically decreases a person’s chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger. It also helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay becomes visible. But according to the American Dental Association (ADA), fluoride is like any other nutrient; it is safe and effective when used appropriately. Unfortunately, many people continue to be misinformed about fluoride and fluoridation.
Fluoride in water
More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. Fluoride in drinking water is the best and easiest way to get it, but to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, have your pediatric district evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride via water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
Topical fluorides strengthen teeth already present in the mouth making them more decay-resistant. Topical fluorides include toothpastes, mouthrinses and professionally applied fluoride therapies.
The ADA recommends that for children younger than 3 years, parents and caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children 3 to 6 years of age, parents and caregivers should dispense no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Regular fluoridation is an essential component to early prevention. If you have questions about how much fluoride your child is getting (or should be getting), feel free to contact us at (541) 389-3073.