Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral essential for proper tooth development.
Benefits of fluoride:
- Strengthens tooth enamel, by capturing minerals in saliva and forcing them into the tooth’s makeup
- Inhibits bacterial metabolism, slowing down the growth of bacteria and their reducing their acidic byproduct, which can weaken tooth enamel
- Inhibits tooth demineralization, meaning it can slow or stop the progression of an already existing cavity
Fluoride can be found in most drinking water, as well as most common toothpastes. Because children can overconsume fluoride, it’s important to follow these rules when it comes to fluoride and your child:
- Use only a pea-sized amount for children ages two to six, and just a tiny smear for children under two years of age
- Fluoride should not be used on children younger than six months
Overexposure to fluoride can cause a condition called fluorosis, which is characterized by a streaked or mottled appearance of the teeth. Fluorosis can look like:
- A streaked or mottled appearance on the teeth
- White spots that are hard to see
- Dark discoloration with a pitted texture
The risk for fluorosis ends by the time a child is nine years old, and all permanent teeth have fully formed.