What Do Fluoride Treatments Do for My Child?
The mineral fluoride is naturally present in many foods as well as in water, rocks, and soil. Because it helps to prevent cavities, fluoride is produced synthetically and added to drinking water and oral health products like dental floss, toothpaste and mouth rinses. A form of fluorine, fluoride protects your child’s teeth against tooth decay by strengthening enamel, the protective outer layer of teeth.
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, creating a shield to protect the inner layers of teeth from harmful bacteria. However, enamel itself is susceptible to decay resulting from a build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth and around the gum line. When enamel is eroded, it cannot regenerate – it has no living cells.
Unlike over-the-counter fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwashes, professional fluoride treatments by a dentist use a powerful concentration of the mineral, applied directly to your child’s teeth – as a gel, varnish or foam – with a soft brush.
Your child’s dentist may also prescribe fluoride applications for use at home that contain higher levels of the mineral than over-the-counter products.
Fluoride supplements in the form of tablets or liquid are also available on prescription from physicians and dentists.
Demineralization and Remineralization
Fluoride treatment for your child helps to safeguard enamel by replacing minerals that have been lost through an attack by bacteria-ridden plaque and sugars and acids in the mouth. Your child’s teeth will absorb fluoride when it mixes with saliva, providing a strong defense against tooth decay.
Minerals are lost and added to tooth enamel on a daily basis through the natural processes of demineralization and remineralization. Minerals are lost when acid attacks the enamel. Teeth-strengthening minerals – including fluoride, phosphates, and calcium – are added when your child drinks water or eats foods containing these minerals.
Cavities develop when too much demineralization occurs without enough remineralization to restore enamel. That’s where professional fluoride treatment comes in – to provide a safe and effective solution that will keep your child’s teeth healthy and strong.
What the Experts Say about Fluoride Treatments for Children
Although largely preventable through fluoride applications, professional cleanings, and dental sealants, tooth decay remains rampant among kids in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that:
- One in four children aged two to five has at least one cavity.
- Half of youngsters aged 12 to 15 have one or more cavities.
- More than 60 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds suffer from tooth decay.
The WebMD online medical information resource says supervised use of fluoride is crucial to help the development of healthy teeth in youngsters from the age of six months to 16 years – as baby teeth and adult teeth emerge.
According to the Medical News Today (MNT) magazine, fluoride can actually change the structure of tooth enamel in children under the age of seven, making it more resilient against acids.
The American Dental Association (ADA) says that as well as strengthening teeth, fluoride treatments can even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
Is My Child More at Risk from Tooth Decay?
Professional fluoride treatments are particularly beneficial for children who are more vulnerable to tooth decay. Factors that put kids particularly at risk of developing cavities include:
Insufficient fluoride. One of the most common reasons that children get cavities is lack of sufficient levels of fluoride. Although the mineral is present in most toothpastes, other dental products, and water supplies, it may not be enough for some children.
Diet. Many foods and drinks that kids love contain a lot of sugar, which bacteria in the mouth use to produce teeth-damaging acids. Encourage your child to cut down on candy and sodas and carbohydrates such as white bread. Instead, tempt them with tasty, crunchy vegetables that are naturally low in sugar.
Dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva is key in preventing cavities by eliminating food debris, sugars, and bacteria in the mouth. Dry mouth tends to be associated with aging but kids can also get xerostomia, typically through use of certain medications like antihistamines for allergies.
Heartburn. Like dry mouth, heartburn is usually associated with adults, but children get it too, especially if they like spicy foods and fried food. Heartburn is caused by stomach acid traveling up into the chest. If it reaches the throat and mouth (acid reflux), it can damage tooth enamel. Another problem is that antacids in some heartburn medication may contain sugar that contributes to tooth decay.
Too many acidic fruits. You may be unwittingly putting your child at greater risk of tooth decay if you give them a lot of fruits in the belief that all fruit is a healthy food. In fact, the acidity of some citrus fruits and tropical fruits can break down tooth enamel.
Inadequate brushing and flossing. Many younger children find it difficult to brush and floss correctly, particularly if they wear braces, which makes the job far more difficult.
Mother Nature! Some children have teeth with naturally deep grooves, which attract more food particles, bacteria, and sugars. These grooves are also harder to clean.
Where Can I get Fluoride Treatments for My Child?
Professional fluoride treatment is safe and painless, only takes a few minutes and is used by dentists all over the world to prevent tooth decay in children. Only a small amount of the mineral is applied and hardly any is swallowed because it quickly hardens.
When combined with dental sealants, regular fluoride treatments have been shown to reduce tooth decay in children by 95 percent. If you want to take advantage of fluoride treatments and sealants to give your child the best chance of avoiding the misery of cavities and toothache, look for a pediatric dental practice that regards preventative dental care as a top priority.
Your child can eat and drink immediately after fluoride treatment although it’s best to stick to soft foods for a while. They should not brush or floss for four to six hours after treatment. Fluoride treatments are generally recommended twice a year but the number of applications required will depend on how likely your child is to get tooth decay.