As a parent, chances are that you’ve heard about fluoride, especially when it concerns your child’s oral health. Still, you may be wondering what fluoride is, whether or not it is safe for your child, and how it benefits their oral health. Fluoride is a mineral derived from fluorine, which is found in the earth’s crust. It is the 13th most abundant element in the world and exists naturally in soil, rocks, and water.
Fluoride has been a part of dentistry for the last 70 years and it has safely been used to strengthen the tooth enamel in order to prevent tooth decay. It is commonly found in a variety of dental products such as mouthwashes and toothpaste. Some communities even supplement their drinking water with fluoride to decrease the prevalence of tooth decay in their citizens.
After your child has their teeth cleaned, a fluoride varnish is applied to the surface of their teeth as a final preventative measure for decreasing the risk of tooth decay. Here are some of the benefits that your child receives from this fluoride varnish:
Strengthens Tooth Enamel
As mentioned above, fluoride is primarily used because it strengthens the tooth enamel. It does this by encouraging the body to absorb more calcium and phosphate. Calcium and phosphate are two essential components of tooth enamel and are used to mineralize the enamel after it has been attacked by bacteria. Demineralization is the first step to developing a cavity, so being able to remineralize the tooth is a key step in preventing cavity formation. While fluoride may not always be able to completely prevent cavities from forming, it can also slow the rate at which decay is occurring.
Prevent Premature Tooth Loss
Although your child will eventually lose their baby teeth, losing them prematurely can affect their incoming permanent teeth, as well as their bite. For these reasons, and several others, it is important that your child does not lose their baby teeth prematurely. Since fluoride helps to keep their enamel strong and decreases the risk of tooth decay, it also decreases the risk that your child will lose their baby teeth early due to decay.
Minimize Bacterial Growth
The human mouth naturally has different types of bacteria, however problems can arise when there is too much bacteria. In fact, excess bacteria in the mouth is the primary cause of both tooth decay and gum disease. Fluoride can help to minimize bacterial growth since it harms the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease.
Safe for Your Child
Although there has been a debate as to whether or not fluoride is safe for children, many medical and health organizations have performed studies that conclude fluoride is, in fact, safe for children when used correctly. While it is possible to use too much fluoride, this is rare and can be noticed by white specks or brown stains on the teeth. It is important to note, however, that drinking water, juice, and soft drinks account for 75% of your child’s total fluoride intake and only a small amount of fluoride comes from toothpaste and fluoride varnish.
Saves You Money
As any parent knows, dental care for your child can get expensive. Fortunately, fluoride varnish helps to strengthen your child’s tooth enamel and minimize bacterial populations in order to prevent or decrease the damage done by tooth decay. This will prevent your child from needing to undergo restorative treatments and it will also prevent you from needing to pay for these treatments.