It is well known that fluoride, an element found in most water
sources, has numerous dental benefits. It is essential to proper oral care.
Fluoride can strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay by keeping the acid
produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving the enamel of our teeth. It
cannot restore teeth with cavities, but it can
prevent cavities, and it also reverses the early stages of tooth decay by
allowing tooth enamel to repair, or remineralize, itself. Fluoridated water,
toothpaste, mouthwash, and supplement pills are all sources of fluoride.

Proper fluoride intake is an important part of a well-rounded
dental health regimen. Infants and young children don’t require as much,
however, when carefully monitored, a child’s intake of fluoride is still a
beneficial and necessary part of their oral care.

Fluoride Intake for

Infants require the least amount of fluoride of any age group.
Fluoride supplements, which are usually prescribed when children live in an
area without fluoridated water, are not necessary for infants. For children
under six months of age, the water used to prepare a baby’s formula provides
sufficient fluoride. Baby formula generally contains fluoride already, with milk-based
formulas containing less fluoride than soy-based formulas. Because of this,
parents have the option of supplementing the level of fluoride contained in
baby formula by preparing their child’s formula with tap water or fluoridated
bottled water. If they want to limit their child’s fluoride intake, they can
use non-fluoridated bottled water.

Some parents also choose to breastfeed as a way to limit
fluoride intake. It should be noted, however, that breast milk contains only
very small trace amounts of fluoride, and a breast milk fed baby receives
virtually no fluoride exposure. Parents are advised to consult with a dentist
to determine how to ensure their infants receive the right amount of fluoride.

When baby teeth begin appearing, parents can brush their
child’s teeth with an infant toothbrush using water and a tiny smear of
toothpaste. Children’s teeth should be brushed this way until around age two.

Fluoride Intake for
Young Children

After the age of two, children begin brushing their own teeth,
thus regularly ingesting fluoride in their toothpaste. Past this age, most of
their fluoride intake comes from water, so children should only use a small
amount of toothpaste when they brush. A pea-sized amount is more than
sufficient, and children should always use a toothpaste that carries the ADA’s seal
of approval.

Under the age of six, children should not use mouth wash that
contains fluoride. Younger children have a tendency to swallow too much
toothpaste while brushing, and if they use mouthwash, there is a high
likelihood of them swallowing that as well. Parents should supervise young
children when they are brushing their teeth to ensure they are not swallowing
their toothpaste. It is around this age when, if a child lives in an area
without a fluoridated water supply, a dentist might prescribe fluoride
supplements to build their fluoride intake beyond toothpaste.

Fluoride is a pivotal part of maintaining proper dental health.
While fluoride intake needs to be carefully monitored in infants and young
children to avoid overexposure, parents should not be deterred from recognizing
the benefits. Speaking with a dentist or pediatric dentist is an excellent way
to learn more about caring for children’s teeth, and obtaining more information
about fluoride needs.