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The Informed Parent

How Good is Fluoride For My Child?

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jun. 12, 2006

Many parents ask about the role of fluoride in children's dental health. There has been a significant decrease in the number of dental caries since the introduction of fluoride. Three basic mechanisms of action have been proposed to explain the cavity-preventing function of fluoride:

  1. increasing the resistance of tooth enamel from the damage of acids
  2. fluoride promoting the strengthening of tooth enamel
  3. fluoride's role in interference with plaque microorganisms that can promote tooth decay

All of these mechanisms are thought to occur at the same time.

Both systemic and topically applied fluorides are felt to work to prevent cavities. Systemic fluoride includes the ingestion of fluoridated water, dietary fluoride supplements, and fluoride rinses. Fluoride-containing toothpaste has also been shown to be a significant source of dietary fluoride when ingested either intentionally or unintentionally.

For the forty percent of the population who do not have access to fluoridated water, dietary fluoride supplements are available. These supplements come in liquid or chewable forms, both with and without vitamins. The recommended dose of fluoride depends on the child's age and the amount of fluoride present in their drinking water. Speak to your child's pediatrician about the fluoride supplements for your child.

Next month we will discuss the effects of excess fluoride on children's teeth.

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