Patients sometimes ask us to explain why fluoride is so important for oral health from childhood through to adulthood. The patients at Dobson Dental are exposed to different amounts of fluoride during their lifetime. We’ve produced a useful guide about the role fluoride plays during various developmental life stages and more importantly where to get it!
The Importance of Fluoride for Kids & Toddlers
Fluoride is essential for young children as it reinforces the enamel even before the teeth break through their gums. The hard surface of tooth enamel is what resists tooth decay. By reinforcing the enamel on your children’s teeth with fluoride it will be easier to prevent tooth decay. This is called a systemic benefit because the fluoride is ingested from foods, beverages and dietary supplements. Frequent exposure to fluoride will minimise the damage caused by occasional treats. Topical fluoride applications, such as fluoride gels are routine procedures for most children during their dental checkup appointments.
As soon as your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s at risk of decay. That’s why Dobson Dental recommend parents begin cleaning their baby’s mouth as soon as they come home from the hospital by wiping their gums with a wet washcloth. This is an easy way to introduce fluoridated water to your baby’s teeth before they begin drinking themselves.
When helping your child brush their teeth twice daily, use a smear (no larger than a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on children younger than 3 years of age. For children from 3 to 6 years use a pea sized portion of fluoride toothpaste. If kids swallow toothpaste regularly it can lead to fluorosis which appears as white flecks on the teeth. Therefore, it is important to use age appropriate toothpaste and teach your child to spit out toothpaste after brushing.
Once your child’s teeth do break through their gums, fluoride helps redemineralise tooth enamel (which strengthens it) and reverses early tooth decay. The main topical fluoride application method is brushing with fluoridated toothpaste. Plus, you can increase your child’s fluoride intake by actively monitoring their diet. Certain foods and beverages already contain fluoride quantities which transfer into the salvia upon consumption. The saliva helps coat the teeth with additional fluoride which helps repair weakened enamel.
Tweens & Fluoride
Although tooth decay is preventable, it is still one of the most predominant chronic conditions affecting children in Victoria! An alarming percentage of Australian children aged 5-10 are living with untreated tooth decay. As children approach their teenage years, their primary teeth are replaced with a permanent set for life. Parents must be aware of the consequences of poor dental hygiene both for their financial and long term health. Tooth decay is more likely during your child’s teenage years particularly from the ages of 14 -17 years. This is because of lifestyle factors as they approach adulthood. With homework, after school jobs, sporting commitments, and increased social activities teenagers often start to feel time poor. Consequently, they tend to make quick and easy food choices such as pre-packaged snacks which are usually high in sugar. Teens that brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste toothbrush plus dental floss after meals can reduce the risk of developing tooth decay. Patient dental counselling with Dobson Dental can be provided to educate teens on proper brushing techniques, flossing and foods that are more nutritious for dental health.
Permanent Adult Teeth
New research shows that not only developing children benefit from fluoride but in fact teeth of all ages! Experts used to think that fluoride worked mainly by strengthening teeth while they were still developing. This meant that children were the focus of fluoridation efforts in the past. However, recent studies now demonstrate the use of topical fluoride such as that found in toothpaste, mouth rinses and fluoride supplements actually help in the fight against decay. More importantly if you’re an adult who grew up without fluoridated water in a region like South East Queensland, prior to 2008, for example – don’t worry! Speak to Dobson Dental about fluoride treatments or supplements.
Fluoride is a natural mineral that is discovered in many foods and drinking water in Australia.
Fluoride prevents tooth decay by:
- Changing the structure of the developing enamel in children before the age of 6, making teeth more resilient to acid attack.
- Establishing an environment where the enamel is more resistant to decay.
- Reducing the presence of bacteria which results in plaque producing acid.
These processes are defined as follows:
Protection from demineralisation –
When bacteria in the mouth combines with sugars, they produce acid. This acid can erode tooth enamel and damage our teeth. Fluoride can protect teeth from demineralisation that is caused by the acid.
If acid has already caused some damage to the teeth, fluoride gathers in the demineralised areas and begins strengthening the enamel.
Drink it Up!
Fluoride is found naturally in many foods and in most Australian water supplies. If you tend to drink bottled water, it may not contain fluoride so you should check with your dentist to determine if you need a supplement. Drinking water containing 0.7 to 1.2 parts of fluoride for every million parts of water (0.7ppm to 1.2ppm) has been shown to have the best effect on dental health. The amount of fluoride in water varies between regions. Currently in Victoria, ninety per cent of people drink water with either naturally occurring or additional fluoride. Melbourne and some regional centres have had fluoridated water for more than 30 years. Your local water supplier can tell you how much fluoride is in your drinking water.
Do you Need More Fluoride?
Fluoride is safe and helps teeth grow strong. It works best when you are exposed to small amounts throughout the day via fluoridated tap water, foods, drinks, and toothpaste. Everyone has different dental needs and risks. Your fluoride requirements will continue to change throughout the course of you and your child’s life. This is something you can talk about with the dental experts at Dobson Dental.
It is also used in the following dental products:
- cements and fillings
- gels and mouthwashes
- some brands of floss
- fluoride supplements (recommended in areas where water is not fluoridated)
Most toothpastes today contain fluoride so this is often the easiest way to ensure your fluoride intake. Fluoride toothpaste is very effective in preventing tooth decay. In areas where the water supply contains fluoride, toothpaste acts as additional protection.
Many reports have been published throughout the world about the incorporation of fluoride into water supplies. After many years, the scientific conclusion is that correctly fluoridated water, salt and milk, as well as toothpaste are extremely beneficial for dental health. Studies have not found any evidence that fluoride added to water causes harmful side effects, but it helps to reduce decay.
If you would like to know how your fluoride intake is shaping up, or if you have any further concerns, make an appointment at Dobson Dental today. Our experts look forward to meeting your dental needs!