Fluoride – friend or foe?

How much fluoride do children need? Is fluoride bad for them? In a word, no – fluoride is proven to protect teeth against decay, but the debate about whether it should be added to our water has raged for the best part of a century. While the policy is thrashed out by politicians and public health bodies, it falls to us as parents to make sure our children are getting the right amount of fluoride for healthy teeth and happy gums.

Fluoride - the facts

  • Fluoride can be found everywhere – in the air, in our water (even non-fluoridated water) and in our food! A mineral that is naturally present in soil and water, fluoride is scientifically proven to strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay.
  • Fluoride allows teeth to develop an even stronger outer layer of enamel called ‘fluorapatite’, which is much more resistant to decay than teeth that haven’t been exposed to fluoride.
  • Fluoride is super-important for children’s teeth, because when teeth first erupt, they are at a higher risk of developing decay. Fluoride is proven to make teeth stronger and more resistant to decay.
  • Fluoride is available in toothpaste and also as a twice-yearly varnish application at Happy Kids Dental. Depending on where you live, it’s also added to your tap water.
  • If too much fluoride is swallowed while adult teeth are emerging (i.e. before the age of 8), it can cause a condition called fluorosis, which causes tooth enamel to appear mottled and stained. If you supervise your children’s brushing and use the right toothpaste, fluorosis is very unlikely to occur. See below to find out how much fluoride your child needs.

Fluoride - the issues

You may or may not have an opinion on fluoride – but google it, and you’ll find it’s a very emotive topic! The controversy surrounding fluoride is tied up with the history of water fluoridation – the public health practice of adding fluoride to our tap water in order to reduce tooth decay across the population. Dental professionals firmly support water fluoridation – but whatever your views, it’s important to make the distinction between fluoride that we ingest, and fluoride that we apply to the surface of our teeth. The latter is scientifically proven to reduce dental decay, and if your child is brushing correctly, under supervision, they won’t be at risk of fluorosis.

How much fluoride does my child need?

  • Children under three years old should brush twice daily, with a smear of toothpaste containing no less than 1000ppm fluoride.
  • Children between 3 and 6 years old should brush at least twice daily with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing more than 1000ppm fluoride.
  • Children over 6 can use regular toothpaste, containing around 1350-1500ppm fluoride.