You may have heard your dentist talk about the need for fluoride, but have you ever paused to consider exactly what it does? Fluoride is an element that is used to prevent tooth decay by strengthening a person’s teeth. By hardening molars and other teeth, fluoride helps to prevent cavities in adults and children alike. However, it is especially important for children to get enough fluoride because their teeth are still growing and are prone to decay. Fluoride is found naturally in water and some foods, but most people get supplements from products like toothpaste and mouth wash. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that most children up to age 16 may need some time of fluoride supplement. It’s important to talk to your dentist about your child’s dietary and oral hygiene habits in order to determine a need for extra fluoride.
Children who consume large amounts of sugar or have a history of decay are especially at risk. If it is decided that a fluoride supplement is needed, a dentist will use one of several options. He may use water fluoridation or also suggest a topical treatment in the form of a gel or foam. These treatments are applied at the office and are considered to be both safe and effective. Only a small amount of fluoride is needed to make a difference, but the earlier a child’s teeth can be treated, the better. Keep this in mind as you consider asking your dentist about your children’s fluoride needs. A little treatment now could save them many cavities down the road.