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All About Fluoride

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

What is fluoride?

It's important to remember that Fluoride is actually natural: it's an element that's found throughout the earth's crust and is present in food, soil, minerals and water sources.

Here’s how fluoride works:

The natural bacteria in our mouths feeds on sugar from the foods and drinks we consume, creating an acid that can destroy tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is primarily made of calcium in the form of hydroxyapatite. When weak acids are present in your mouth hydroxyapatite dissolves out of your teeth, leaving little holes. When this occurs, the fluoride in tap water and toothpaste chemically reacts with the calcium and replenishes the hydroxyl molecules with fluor, forming fluoroapatite. This doesn't dissolve in an acid. Fluoride helps make teeth resistant to acid so bacteria can not dissolve tooth enamel, therefore, preventing cavities.

Why is fluoride important?

Did you know dental cavities are the most common disease in children and adults worldwide? Fluoride is one of the best ways we can prevent tooth decay. Since the 1930's, scientists discovered that individuals who lived in a habitat with naturally fluoridated water had approximately 67% fewer cavities than those who did not live in an environment with fluoridated water.

Should I worry about my child drinking fluoridated water?

The answer is no. Water is the best fluid choice for children because the sugar and acid in juice, vitamin water, soda, sports drinks and energy drinks all lead to cavities.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has strict regulations to add only the necessary amount of fluoride to the public water supply. If you drink tap water, you are most likely getting the appropriate amount, however, if you have a reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment system or use distilled water, check with the manufacturer to discover if you're getting the proper amount (many treatment systems remove a vast amount of fluoride). In addition, not all bottled water is fluoridated so be sure to read the labels.

Fluoride treatments:

We give fluoride treatments to our patients right after we clean their teeth. It's fast and painless! First, we let your child choose one of three fluoride flavors: mint, melon or cherry. The fluoride varnish is a sticky substance that our dental hygienists paint on your child’s teeth. After a fluoride treatment, your child will have to avoid hot liquids and any sticky foods for 24 hours as well as wait to brush until the next morning. Fluoride treatments prevent cavities by making the enamel resist that acid that's present in food and beverages.

How do we explain the purpose of fluoride to children?

We explain to our little patients that fluoride is a vitamin that gives their teeth superpowers to fight "sugar bugs" (cavities)! Many children want to get involved when they learn their teeth have "superpowers."

How to keep your baby's teeth clean from the start:

Before teeth come in, use a washcloth to wipe your baby's gums clean after each feeding and before bedtime. As soon as baby teeth start to peek through, begin using a soft, baby-sized toothbrush with a dot of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). This helps spread fluoride onto their teeth without them swallowing too much toothpaste. Once your child is able to spit properly (around age 3) use a pea-sized dot of toothpaste. Make sure you're monitoring your child's brushing technique until they are about 5 or 6. If getting your child to brush is a struggle, we recommend encouraging healthy brushing habits with stickers or songs! Let your child pick out a special toothbrush to fight the "sugar bugs." Allowing them get involved is key to making it routine!

If you have questions or need to make a dental appointment,

please feel free to call 614-882-2249.

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