Did you know that everytime your child brushes their teeth or visits the dentist, they apply fluoride to their teeth? Fluoride has been used in dentistry for the last 70 years due to its many benefits to oral health. In addition to being an active ingredient in toothpastes and mouthwashes, fluoride is also applied to the outer surface of your child’s teeth by their pediatric dentist. In many communities, fluoride is also added to the drinking water as a preventative oral health measure.
While some people fear fluoride, there is nothing to fear. Fluoride is not a medication, rather it is a naturally occurring mineral that comes from the earth’s crust. It is made from the element fluorine, which is the 13th most abundant element in the world. This popular element is found naturally in water, soil, and phosphate rocks. In fact, fluoride and the phosphoric acid found in sodas are both derived from phosphate rocks.
To appreciate what fluoride does for your children’s oral health, here are a few of the many benefits that fluoride offers:
Demineralization is one of the first steps of cavity formation and it occurs when the acids from bacteria begin to weaken the tooth enamel. Fluoride can stop demineralization and encourage the tooth to remineralize itself by helping the enamel absorb calcium and phosphate, two main components of enamel. By helping the tooth remineralize, fluoride helps to repair areas of weak enamel in order to make the enamel stronger overall. Not only that, but fluoride can also help to slow the progression of decay as well. In some cases, it can even repair decay that has just started.
Preserves Primary Teeth
Although your child’s primary teeth will eventually be lost and replaced with their permanent teeth, it is highly important that all the baby teeth remain in place until this occurs naturally. When baby teeth are prematurely lost due to decay, this can cause the permanent teeth to become crowded or overlapping once they begin to erupt. Because fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to decay, it ultimately helps to preserve the primary teeth and prevent premature tooth loss.
There are different types of bacteria that naturally circulate in your child’s mouth. While some of these bacteria are beneficial and natural, having too much bacteria is the primary cause of tooth decay and gum disease. Luckily, fluoride harms the bacteria that causes tooth decay. This helps to regulate the amount of bacteria in your child’s mouth, which will also decrease the risk of cavity formation.
Using fluoride keeps the enamel on your child’s teeth strong and more resistant to decay. Additionally fluoride also helps to preserve the primary teeth and regulate bacterial growth. All these things combined decrease your child’s chances of needing restorative dental procedures. It also reduces the need for you to pay for those restorative dental procedures.
When fluoride is used appropriately by your pediatric dentist, it is considered to be safe by several medical and health organizations. The amount of fluoride in toothpaste and topical treatments is much lower than fluoride found in sodas, juices, and drinking water. In fact, around 75% of your child’s total fluoride consumption comes from sodas, juices, and drinking water. However, there is always the possibility of too much fluoride. Although rare, your child may develop white spots or brown stains on the teeth that can signal excess fluoride. If this happens, your pediatric dentist will provide you with guidance on what to do next.
Dr. Marielena Torres is board certified and is constantly continuing her education to stay informed of the latest developments in pediatric dentistry. This allows her to offer patients and their parents the most cutting-edge care and education.