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Like calcium, your teeth need fluoride to develop properly. Fluoride can be delivered both internally (through ingestion) and externally (by topical application.)
Fluoridated Tap Water
Municipal water sources contain regulated fluoride levels. Usually, the concentration is slightly higher in the winter, when people drink less water, and lower in the summer, when they drink more. Other minerals are also regulated for healthy bone and tooth development as they’re absorbed by your digestive system.
One thing that parents need to be cautious about is giving their child bottled water. Many commercial water bottling companies do not regulate fluoride in their products. Fluoride may not be evident at all, and some even have slightly acidic pH levels. If your primary water intake is from bottled water, you may actually be depriving your family of adequate mineral intake.
A healthy and affordable way to make sure your family is getting enough fluoridated water is to use refillable water bottles or cups. Tap water will contain the fluoride you need, as long as it’s coming from a municipal source. If you’re on well water or an alternative water supply, it’s best to have your levels tested regularly.
In years past, parents were told to brush their child’s teeth with tap water or a training toothpaste. But thanks to more comprehensive research, the ADA now advises that parents use a small, rice-grain sized smear of fluoride to brush their child’s teeth. Even if an extremely tiny amount of toothpaste is ingested, it will be completely safe for their child.
The point of not using fluoride toothpaste in the past was the fear of gastrointestinal distress or fluorosis (too much fluoride in the teeth.) But being that fluoride is a natural occurring mineral, we can know that at the right dosage it is extremely safe for all ages.
As children get older and are less likely to swallow toothpaste, they can progress to using a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush. Just be sure that your child is rinsing and spitting well. If they swallow a large amount — as with many other things — it can cause a stomachache. Long term and excessive ingestion can permanently alter your child’s tooth development.
Over-the-Counter Fluoride Rinse
Mild fluoride rinses found in the store can be a helpful addition to your family’s everyday oral hygiene routine. Rinses are best used after brushing and flossing, especially before bedtime. Since the rinse has limited contact time with the teeth, it’s important not to rinse with water or eat or drink anything after use. Keep in mind that rinsing does not replace brushing or flossing, as the teeth need to be extremely clean for the fluoride to do its job.
Kids who are at risk for tooth decay may need something stronger than what’s available in stores. Prescription fluoride gels are ideal for children in braces who have recurring cavities. It’s more concentrated and as a gel can set against the tooth for a longer period of time, working to reverse early enamel demineralization.
To use prescription fluoride, brush and floss your child’s teeth well. Then apply the gel as directed just before they go to bed. They should not eat or drink anything until the next morning. Allow the gel to stay on their teeth (don’t rinse it off.) The next morning, go about your normal routine.
Fluoride Treatments in the Dentist’s Office
Professional fluoride treatments are applied after most dental cleanings. At this moment, your child’s teeth are free of any buildup or bacterial plaque. Applying fluoride right at this moment allows for maximum absorption of a more concentrated gel than you’ll find over the counter. When used routinely, fluoride treatments can statistically lower the chances of new cavities from forming. But it’s also helpful in managing tooth sensitivity.
Silver Diamine Fluoride
This unique type of fluoride treatment is used on a case-by-case basis to treat active tooth decay. As long as the decay is still quite small, silver diamine fluoride can prevent the cavity from getting any worse. It’s best used on primary (baby) teeth, as it can potentially cause long-term staining in the enamel.
Talk With Our Dentist
With so many preventative resources available, it’s easier than ever to help your child enjoy a healthy smile for life. But if you’re overwhelmed at the choices and advice out there, you’re not alone. Partnering with a great dental team can give you the peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can for your child’s current and future smile.
Contact us at (617) 527-6061 or request an appointment online.