Current Facts

  • Systemic fluoride has been shown to reduce caries between 50 to 70 precent.
  • Water fluoridation is still the No. 1 cost effective way to prevent tooth decay. However, 30 precent of communities in the United States do not have fluoride in their public sources of water.
  • Children aged 6 months to 16 years may need fluoride supplements if they drink water that is not optimally fluoridated. The dentist considers many different factors before recommending a fluoride supplement.
  • Your child's age, risk of developing dental decay and the different liquids your child drinks are important considerations. Bottled, filtered and well waters vary in their fluoride amount, so a water analysis may be necessary to ensure your child is receiving the proper amount.
  • Fluoride for infants is available in fluoride drops or in combination with prescription vitamins. Fluoride sources for children include fluoride toothpastes, fluoride mouth rinses and fluoride applications in the paediatric dental office.
  • Your child should use toothpaste with fluoride and should not swallow any toothpaste. Careful supervision is encouraged. For children under 2-years-old, use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. For those 2 to 5-years-old, a small pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on the brush is recommended.
  • When a child develops a cavity, the dentist may use certain types of tooth-coloured filling materials (such as resin ionomer or compomer) that contain time-release fluorides. This extra fluoride targeted to the child’s problem area can prevent decay and the need for future fillings.
  • Children who benefit the most from fluoride are those at highest risk for dental decay. Risk factors include a history of previous cavities, a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates, orthodontic appliances and certain medical conditions such as dry mouth.
  • Topical fluoride is a preventive agent applied to tooth enamel. It comes in a number of different forms. A dental professional places fluoride gels and foams in trays that are held against the teeth for up to 4 minutes. Topical fluoride also can be applied as a varnish.

Fluoride Varnishes: Innovative Prevention

Fluoride varnishes used in the dental office are painted on the teeth instead of being applied like traditional fluoride treatments. Completed in minutes, the varnish remains on the tooth surface for several hours, longer than other topical fluoride products. The treatment could be particularly valuable to children at high risk for tooth decay.

Fluoride varnish has been documented to be safe and effective to fight dental decay. This method is especially useful in young patients and those with special needs that may not tolerate fluoride trays comfortably.

Fluoride: More Is Not Better

Ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorosis of the developing teeth. Fluorosis usually is mild, with tiny white specks or streaks that often are unnoticeable.

Three common ways a child can get too much fluoride are:

  1. Taking more of a fluoride supplement than the amount prescribed.
  2. Taking a fluoride supplement when there is already an optimal amount of fluoride in the drinking water.
  3. Using too much toothpaste, then swallowing it instead of spitting it out.

Parents should supervise their pre-schoolers’ tooth brushing. Use a small smear of fluoridated toothpaste for children under two-years-old. For those aged 2 to 5 years, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste when helping your children brush.

Please note that some information has been adapted from the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY 2013 ‘Fast Facts’ factsheet