Fluoride is a wonder substance for your teeth. It’s alarming, then, to note that some might lack it, especially children. Not all US states, for instance, have fluoridated water sources. And while most toothpaste contains fluoride, you can never be too sure.
But what is it about fluoride that makes it so essential to teeth? And how can you ensure that your child is getting enough of it? Let’s look into it further.
Fluoride fortifies your teeth against decay
Rebecca Felsenthal, in her article for Parents, notes that tooth decay is a lot more common in young children “than any other chronic illness,” such as “asthma and diabetes.” There’s a lot of factors that might contribute this, such as the amount of sugar in the standard American diet and the increasing ubiquity of fluoride-less bottled water. And if the parents of the child are prone to cavities, they might end up passing on oral bacteria to their kids by sharing eating implements or toothbrushes.
To understand why these conditions are ripe for tooth decay, it’s essential to know how a cavity forms. Cavities, in a nutshell, are portions of the tooth that collapsed. These areas usually lack calcium due to bacteria eating away at it. The more harmful bacteria you have in your mouth, the more prone you are to cavities. These germs are also sustained by sugar, which is why individuals with high-sugar diets are more susceptible to tooth decay than others.
A regular intake of fluoride, then, can help mitigate these incidences by strengthening your teeth. When you intake fluoride either from food sources or toothbrushing, it returns the minerals your teeth lost, reversing the decaying process. More than that, however, it also binds to other minerals in your teeth—such as phosphate and calcium—making it harder for bacteria to penetrate the teeth.
How can I know if my child has enough fluoride?
Since we know what fluoride can do for you, the question is this: how can you tell if your child is taking the right amount of fluoride?
Answer? You can’t. The closest thing you can do to ensure that they have enough of it is by monitoring what they intake—do they drink enough fluoridated water? Are they getting enough of it in their meals? Does their toothpaste have fluoride? Just make sure you don’t overdo it. An excess intake of fluoride could cause fluorosis, which over time could impact your bones.
But while you might not be able to pinpoint whether your child has enough fluoride, your dentist certainly can. Since fluoride affects the teeth, babies don’t need to make the appointment until they’re six months old. During that time, your pediatric dentist will tell whether your little one might need to up their fluoride intake, often by the plaque building up their gums. During the visit, your dentist could also prescribe a plan of action to prevent further complications. In the meantime, good old dental hygiene is enough to tame the tides ‘til then.