Although February is most associated with Valentine’s Day, we mustn’t forget that this month is also known as National Children’s Dental Health Month! The American Dental Association (ADA) implemented this national health observance so we could dedicate an entire month to uniting devoted professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to spread awareness about the benefits of good oral health to kids, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.
Keeping kids’ teeth healthy isn’t only about making sure they keep up with their daily brushing. In a routine checkup, the pediatric dentist looking over your child’s teeth may bring up questions regarding your water supply. This is due to the fact that fluoride, a substance naturally premised in water, plays a vital part in the development of healthy teeth and the prevention of cavities.
In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, our McAllen dentists here at WhiteWing Dental will be your guide in sharing the importance of fluoride, and what it means for your children’s teeth.
Why Fluoride is Fluo“right” for Your Oral Health
Fluoride comes from fluorine, a common element in the Earth’s crust, and it only makes sense that it would exist in our water sources as well. It is said that it helps in the prevention and even reversing of the early stages of tooth decay.
Tooth decay occurs when plaque–bad bacteria that can live on or in between your teeth–breaks down sugars in foods. The bacteria develop acids that dissolve the tough enamel surfaces of teeth. If this type of damage goes without treatment, the bacteria can eat through the enamel and lead to tooth decay (also referred to as cavities or caries). Cavities make our teeth weak and cause discomfort, pain, tooth loss, or even widespread infection in the most serious circumstances.
Fluoride fights against tooth decay because it strengthens your teeth and makes them more resistant to acid. However, despite this being addressed, tooth decay is still one of the most common of childhood oral diseases. Luckily, with the help of fluoridated water, this can be prevented even more so than simply brushing alone.
The Benefits of Fluoridated Water
Many studies have proven the safety and effectiveness of fluoridated water. In fact, people in the United States have been drinking water with added fluoride and taking advantage of the benefits of improved dental health for 75 years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking water with fluoride has decreased cavities by about 25 percent in both children and adults. Most of the US population can access fluoridated water through the taps in their homes. Some communities already have fluoride naturally found in their water, while others can add it when they visit water-processing plants.
If your water comes from a public system, you may contact your local water authority or public health department, or check online at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) database of local water safety records. Also, if you’re a well water user or use water from a private source, fluoride levels need to be reviewed by a lab or public health department.
Some parents purchase bottled water for their children to drink rather than tap water. Most bottled waters don’t contain fluoride, but bottled water with fluoride is now available. If as a parent you’re feeling wary of the safety of fluoride for your child, it is worth noting that the ADA, the US Public Health Service (USPHS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend community water fluoridation. The CDC even considered fluoridated water as one of the 10 greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century.
The Proper Fluoride Intake for Your Child
The question stands as to how much fluoride your child requires. Generally, fluoride supplements aren’t necessary for kids less than 6 months of age. If you reside in an area that’s non-fluoridated, our dental team may prescribe fluoride drops, tablets, or vitamins once your baby is older than 6 months.
Some other helpful oral health tips include, but are not limited to:
- Using a toothpaste that has fluoride.
- Brushing your babies’ teeth as they come in using an infant toothbrush. Utilize water and a tiny dose of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice. If you’re using baby toothpaste without fluoride, keep it to the same amount to avoid the risk of any toothpaste being swallowed.
- Children ages 3 and up should use a fluoride toothpaste in an amount the size of a pea.
- Children below the age of 6 might swallow a lot of toothpaste whilst brushing. Supervise them when they brush their teeth and teach them to spit out the toothpaste.
- Children under the age of 6 should never use mouth rinses that have fluoride, but older children that are at a higher risk of tooth decay may benefit from it.
No matter what month it is, every day is an opportunity to practice good oral hygiene, not just for kids, but adults too. Your dentist at Whitewing Dental can give you the help you need if you aren’t able to access fluoridated water at your next routine dental cleaning and checkup.