Our teeth are important and, lucky for us, we get two chances to treat them right. First with our primary teeth and second with our permanent teeth. From the first sign of teething, we (or our caretakers) should be brushing our teeth, flossing, and implementing fluoride into our dental routine.
Fluoride is an important, natural mineral that remineralizes the strong enamel that coats our teeth. Every day the tough enamel is worn down by the sugars, carbohydrates, and other foods we consume, a process called demineralization. Children must consume fluoride as it will help strengthen their teeth before they emerge. Our saliva also has traces of fluoride which strengthens the teeth from the outside and makes it harder for acid to damage the tooth enamel. There are three main ways our bodies receive and process fluoride.
The first way our body receives fluoride is through our diet. Raw fruit, veggies, eggs, and milk all have small amounts of the mineral, less than 0.07 parts per million. The most prominent place people generally receive their fluoride from is their tap water. Many water companies add fluoride to the community water supply. This effort has “prevent[ed] tooth decay by at least 25% in children and adults.” Fluoridation is safe, effective, and financially beneficial as it helps community members save money on dental costs. If you are interested in knowing how much fluoride is in your tap water, contact your local water supplier.
After you’ve turned 16, swallowed fluoride doesn’t add fluoride to the teeth. Instead, you’ll need a topical solution in the form of a toothpaste or mouth rinse. This is still important for those under 16-years-old as it will still remineralize the outer coating of the teeth. Check that the toothpaste you use has an ADA Seal that proves it has been tested to contain the correct amount of fluoride to protect your teeth. Mouthwash is also useful for fighting off tooth-decaying bacteria, however, children younger than six shouldn’t use it since they are more likely to swallow it than gargle.
If your community doesn’t add fluoride to the water and you are concerned that your child doesn’t have enough fluoride, you can ask your dentist about them taking a fluoride supplement or receiving a fluoride treatment. A children’s fluoride treatment consists of the dentist inspecting the teeth and applying a thin layer of concentrated fluoride to the surface of the teeth to help fight tooth decay. A fluoride supplement is mainly prescribed to children under the age of sixteen who are at risk for cavities and who live in a place without enough fluoride in the water.
It’s important to ensure that you have enough fluoride in your system to take care of your teeth, but it’s especially crucial to make sure that your children have enough fluoride. Fluoride is essential as we develop our teeth because it strengthens the enamel and helps fight cavities. Teach your children the importance of fluoride and taking care of their teeth. After all, they’ll only have two chances to get it right.