- The benefits of fluoride were discovered in one of nature’s own experiments — the incidence of dental carries proved to be fifty percent less in areas with naturally fluoridated water, while the incidence of major diseases in these areas was the same as in the general population. Studies of large numbers of people over many generations have attested to the value of fluoride as a safe and effective nutritional supplement for the prevention of tooth decay.
- Fluoride has been added to drinking water for almost fifty years, and follow-up studies have validated the cavity-lowering effects of fluoride supplementation and failed to show any increase in diseases due to this public health measure.
- According to public health officials, fluoride supplementation ranks along with water purification and vaccines as one of the top public health measures of the 20th century.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Public Health Department, and the American Dental Association have all recommended that from six months to sixteen years growing children with growing teeth should receive fluoride supplements either in their diet or in the water they drink.
How fluoride helps
Fluoride that your child ingests either in food or water enters the bloodstream and becomes incorporated in the tooth enamel even before the teeth erupt, making them strong and more resistant to decay. Fluoride applied topically through toothpaste or by your dentist also makes the teeth more resistant to decay and strengthens the enamel as it repairs itself from normal wear. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring trace mineral, and like calcium, iron and other minerals, it is often found naturally in water. Unlike other minerals, it has a narrow risk/benefit ratio. This means that just the right amount of fluoride helps the teeth and too much harms the teeth, causing a condition called fluorosis. While most cases of fluorosis are mild, causing a few white spots or patches on the teeth, more severe cases can cause a brownish mottling and weaken enamel. Because it’s important to give infants and children just the right amount of fluoride, it is available only by prescription and should be given to your infant or children only in the exact dosage your doctor prescribes. There are many myths that persist about fluoride, but these have been disproven. Fluoride does not cause weaker bones or cancer.
USING FLUORIDE SUPPLEMENTS SAFELY
To be sure your children get the right amount of fluoride — not too much and not too little — follow these recommendations:
- If your child drinks several glasses of water a day and the local water supply has a fluoride concentration of at least .3 parts per million, your child does not need fluoride supplements in the form of tablets or drops. Check with your family doctor or dentist as to your child’s individual fluoride needs. You can check the fluoride content of your water by calling your local water department.
- Even if your local tapwater is fluoridated, your infant or child may not drink enough tapwater to receive sufficient fluoride. In this situation, consult your doctor about giving your child fluoride supplements. If you drink bottled water , it will not be fluoridated unless you specifically request it.
- Don’t use fluoride-containing toothpastes and mouthwashes in children below the age of two, since toddlers tend to swallow toothpaste.
- If your child uses a fluoridated toothpaste, allow only a pea-sized dab a day. This will provide the daily dose of recommended fluoride without risking overdose. Don’t allow your children to use the generous amounts of toothpaste they see in TV commercials.
- Ready-to-feed formulas are not made with fluoride- supplemented water.
- Breastfed babies do not need additional supplies of fluoride. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that fluoride supplements not be given to infants younger than six months of age because of the concern about fluorosis in this age group.
Depending on your child’s age and the fluoride concentration in your local water supply, the fluoride supplementation schedule is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
FLUORIDE CONCENTRATION IN LOCAL WATER SUPPLY, PARTS PER MILLION <0.3 ppm 0.3-0.6 ppm >0.6 ppm AGE OF CHILD Daily Dosage of Fluoride 6 months to three years 0.25 mg 0.00 0.00 3-6 years 0.50 mg 0.25 mg 0.00 6 years to at least 16 years 1.0 mg 0.50 mg 0.00