Fluoride can be a controversial topic. Some say it’s a dangerous substance, but most believe it’s good for the health of your teeth. If you’re interested in making this decision for yourself, there are a few things you should know.
Many argue that the benefits of fluoride far outweigh the risks. In fact, fluoride can reduce tooth decay by up to 25%. Reducing decay in children is extremely important to their long term oral health. A permanent tooth that develops a cavity at a young age will require thousands and thousands of dollars of treatment over the course of its life. It may even be lost early. The risks associated with teeth problems are far higher than the relatively small risks that come fluoride.
It’s important to remember that fluoride can affect your kids differently—especially if they’re younger than twelve. Excess fluoride exposure while the teeth are developing is known to cause a condition known as fluorosis in the permanent teeth. Fluorosis ranges from smile white spots on the teeth all the way to very brown pitted areas. Another possible problem with excess fluoride exposure is that it may cause slight changes in cognitive development. A couple of studies have shown very small decreases in the IQ of children with high fluoride exposure.
So what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen?
The major one is making sure your child doesn’t swallow their toothpaste. Your should avoid using toothpaste with fluoride in it for your child until you’re certain your little one can spit out their toothpaste. This usually happens right around age 3. Your child would need to ingest a huge amount of fluoride before it would cause any real immediate damage but as we’ve just discussed it may have a long term effect if it happens often. You’ll also want to make sure that you are using the tiniest amount of toothpaste possible to get the job done. For young children this means only using a tiny smear on their toothbrush. This is far less than even the pea sized amount recommended on most tubes of toothpaste.
Many dentists offer fluoride treatments. These treatments don’t usually take more than a few minutes and can come in many forms, including a gel, foam, or varnish. We personally use a varnish in our office because it is quick and easy to apply and your child can eat and drink immediately afterwards, unlike several other types of fluoride treatment. If you decide on this treatment, we’ll apply your fluoride with a small brush. Fluoride varnish an also be helpful for adults who have a high risk for cavities and for people with sensitive teeth. Ask about this if you think you might be a good candidate for routine fluoride treatment.