Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that helps prevent tooth decay by making the entire surface of the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from the bacteria that live on the plaque on your teeth. It also promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before a cavity forms. There are two forms:
- Topical- professional varnish (recommended every 6 months), rinses, toothpastes (high risk patients may even be prescribed a special toothpaste for at home use) *This form is needed to prevent cavities in the teeth currently present in your mouth
- Systemic- fluoridated water, other foods and beverages, fluoride supplements *This form is needed for un-erupted developing teeth
As with all good things, fluoride in excess can be detrimental. Parents can take the following steps to decrease the risk of too much fluoride.
- Use only a smear (less than a “pea size” amount) of toothpaste on the very young child
- Consider fluoride toothpaste only at bedtime brushing for a child unable to spit who may be getting a lot of other fluoride from other sources
- Always monitor your child while brushing and keep toothpaste in a safe place away from children who may ingest it at high levels