A common dental practice is to apply a syrup-like substance called fluoride directly to a patient’s teeth immediately following their cleaning and exam. We often see parents worry about this process when applied to their children’s teeth and many ask why fluoride is even necessary. Indeed, many mainstream news articles have reported the dangers of excessive fluoride use, especially in children. However, while these claims may have some factual basis, the majority of research is actually favorable towards fluoride.
Fluoride is a natural substance that is found in many natural water sources and foods that has protective and regenerative properties over the teeth. Decades of research have shown that when used in normal amounts, fluoride acts as a protective barrier to strengthen enamel and prevent tooth decay. Indeed, it is possible to even reverse the early signs of tooth decay when using fluoride regularly. Because of these proven benefits, fluoride is found in most toothpastes and mouthwashes, and many cities inject fluoride into well water. Because each of these sources use fluoride in such a small amount, there is no need to fear if your child occasionally swallows the recommended toothpaste amount or regularly drinks tap water. In fact, it is extremely good for young children’s developing teeth to have a consistent exposure to fluoride.
It is true that too much fluoride intake can lead to health problems such as dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, and fluoride poisoning. Research into these conditions shows that they are often characterized by harmless stains to the teeth, weakened bones and teeth, and stomach and/or joint pain, among other symptoms. However, in nearly every case where these conditions developed, it was through excessive use of fluoride, such as children swallowing an entire tube of toothpaste. If this does happen, seek medical care immediately. But in the end, the benefits of fluoride far outweigh the potential harms of its use.
The key takeaway here is that fluoride in large quantities can be harmful, but in small quantities, it has been proven to be very beneficial to oral health. For more information about fluoride, go to https://www.ada.org or ask your dentist or hygienist at your next visit.