Dental caries (tooth decay) is an increasingly common occurrence among children and teenagers. The underlying cause of this condition is acid-producing bacteria. We call it “plaque”. It collects around the teeth in a film. If good oral hygiene habits are not established and your child doesn’t visit their dentist regularly, there’s vulnerability for decay.

Dental fluoride trays. image provided by Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In addition to brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings, fluoride is required for optimal oral health. Continue reading to learn how dental fluoride treatments can help your child achieve optimal oral health.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a type of mineral that is part of the teeth and bones of the body. It is also in a variety of natural resources, such as water, plants, and soil.

In terms of dentistry, it is utilized to aid in the strengthening of the enamel. This is the outermost layer of the teeth.

While small traces of fluoride can be found in public water sources throughout the country, many kids and teenagers require an additional amount to boost their oral health.

This substance is necessary for the prevention of cavities and to prevent the development of tooth decay.

Products That Contain Fluoride

Children Brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste

In addition to natural resources and public water sources, fluoride is contained in many over-the-counter (OTC) dental health and general health products.

Examples of these items include various types of toothpaste, a wide assortment of mouth rinses, and supplements for the health. In addition to this, there are prescription medications that contain fluoride. For the purpose and intent of this article, we will focus on those that are geared towards dental health.

The dentist’s office may provide fluoride concentration that covers the teeth of your child when visiting and there are both prescription toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain this essential mineral.

What Are the Dental Benefits of Fluoride?

fluoride toothpaste on toothbrush

When the bacteria in the mouth break down substances like sugars, they produce damaging acids. These – in turn – consume the minerals that are located within the enamel of the teeth.

Medically termed “demineralization”, the process leaves the teeth weak and highly susceptible to the development of cavities.

When fluoride is used, it helps with the process of remineralization. This not only helps in the prevention of cavities; it also helps to reverse the process of any tooth decay that may be occurring in your child’s mouth. Therefore, the benefits of using fluoride for the dental health are:

  1. It strengthens the enamel of the teeth
  2. It slows the process of lost mineralization of the teeth
  3. It can aid in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria
  4. It can reverse any signs associated with early tooth decay

Are There Different Forms of Fluoride?

Listerine Naturals

While in food and water, most dental fluorides can be directly applied to the teeth. These come in the forms of mouth rinse and toothpaste.

Dentists often apply a fluoride-based gel or foam to the teeth. Additionally, there are dental varnishes utilized that contain the mineral. Fluoride may also come in the form of either a liquid or a tablet. These are referred to as “supplements” and may only be obtained by a prescription.

Is There a Time When My Child Must Have Fluoride?

In short, the answer to this question is “yes”. It is between six months of age and sixteen years of age.

The reason being is this is the time when the permanent teeth start to emerge in the mouth. The mineral helps to fight tooth decay, but it also helps to strengthen the permanent teeth that emerge.

If your child has certain types of conditions that result in the heightened risk of tooth decay, they may also need to be exposed to additional amounts of fluoride.

Examples of these issues include those that result in dry mouth, having dental treatments such as braces, gum disease, and even a history of having cavities.

If I Can Buy Fluoride Products, Why Does My Child Need Fluoride at the Dentist Office?

It is advised that all children up to the age of sixteen receive professional fluoride treatment. When received at the dentist office, the concentration levels are much stronger than those in over-the-counter products that may be purchased.

Your child will usually have to hold a tray in their mouth that contains the substance.

In some cases, the fluoride may be applied to the teeth using a special brush. In other instances, a rinse may be provided.

Once the fluoride has been placed on the teeth, the child will usually be asked to avoid rinsing, eating, or drinking for at least half an hour. This allows enough time for the mineral to be absorbed by the teeth and to start the repair process on the enamel.

How Often Are Professional Treatments Needed?

The amount of fluoride provided to your child in a professional setting will depend heavily on their oral health, general health, and age. In some cases, it may be required every visit. In others, only once a year.

If oral health is suffering, the pediatric dentist may require the treatment to be issued every three months. If there are oral health concerns, your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride treatments with high concentrations of the substance to be used at home. These are typically prescribed as rinses, in toothpaste, as gels, and even as supplements. The route prescribed is usually based on your child’s individual needs.

Are There Any Dangerous Side Effects of Fluoride?

There have been case studies that indicate a link between high levels of fluoride and the health; however, only small traces of the mineral are found in over-the-counter and dental applications.

Nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and large amounts of saliva production have been associated with high-level exposures to the mineral; however, this is not usually any type of concern that parents should have.

If you have any questions about potential side effects, discuss those with your pediatric dentist.

To schedule your child for their fluoride treatments, contact us today