Fluoride Part I

February 2, 2018 / Category: Children's Dentistry, Preventative

”You’re not from Oregon originally…are you?” This is the first question that I ask new patients who are over 35 years old and have not had a cavity.  The common response is “No, I’m not….how can you tell?”  The easy answer is that they were obviously raised in an area that had fluoridated water.  The effectiveness of fluoride is hard to ignore, yet many patients have questions and concerns about its usage.  I would like to answer one of the questions that we get in our practice frequently.

“Should my child take Fluoride?”:  

Studies have shown that fluoride has both a pre-eruptive (systemic) effect and a post-eruptive (topical) effect. The systemic effect strengthens permanent teeth while they are forming during childhood.  Most of Oregon’s communities do not have fluoridated water, so the only way to get this benefit is to take fluoride drops or tablets that have been prescribed by a dentist or pediatrician.  These tablets have a small concentration of fluoride in them that will strengthen the teeth, but not allow any of the negative effects of ingesting too much fluoride.  In fact, if a child is taking a daily fluoride supplement then I will recommend that this child use a “fluoride free” toothpaste until they are able to effectively “spit-out” extra toothpaste after brushing.  This is a great way to control their fluoride consumption and ensure that they are only getting the optimal amount.

At approximately age 14-16, the permanent teeth are fully formed and erupted, so taking fluoride systemically is no longer necessary. Once our teeth are formed, they no longer absorb or “take-up” anything from our bodies. (The good news:  Our erupted, permanent teeth also don’t “give-up” anything to our bodies.  So, the old wives tale about pregnancy robbing the mother’s teeth of calcium is not true.)  At this time, our teeth solely benefit from the topical effects of fluoride.  To achieve this benefit, patients can use a fluoride toothpaste and mouth wash daily.  Again, none of this fluoride should be swallowed, as there is no benefit systemically.

Are you still on the fence? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP);   “Dental caries-or tooth decay-is the most common, chronic disease among children in the United States.”   The AAP states that fluoride is effective for cavity prevention in children.

Thank you and check back in future months, when I will answer more frequently asked questions about fluoride.

— Dr. Powell–