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Fluoride During Childhood

Overview

Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay and dental cavities. It may be added to local water supplies, toothpastes, and other mouth care products. Pediatric dentists recommend that you use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste up to age 3. Ask your dentist if this is right for your child. Use a pea-sized amount for children ages 3 to 6 years.footnote 1

Studies show that tooth decay is reduced in children if fluoride is added to or is found naturally in a community's water supply.footnote 1 To find out how much fluoride is in your drinking water, call your local water company or the local health unit. If you have your own well, have the local health unit check your water to find out if your family needs fluoride from other sources.

Some children may need a fluoride supplement. Normal amounts of fluoride added to public water supplies and bottled water are safe for children and adults. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend supplements. Use these supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.

Safety

Fluoride is safe in the amounts provided in water supplies, but it can be toxic in large amounts. Toxic levels depend on your child's weight. A lethal dose of fluoride for a 3-year-old child is 500 mg. It's even less for a younger child or infant.

Keep all products containing fluoride, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes, away from children. If you think your child may have swallowed too much fluoride, call your local poison control centre immediately.

Fluorosis

Too much fluoride swallowed during the early childhood years may cause white, brown, or black spots or streaks on the outside of the teeth. These stains on the teeth are called fluorosis. They may also cause the tooth enamel to become rough.

  • Fluorosis occurs during the first 8 years of childhood while the outer enamel layer of the teeth is still growing.
  • Fluorosis isn't harmful to your general health. In rare, severe cases of stains caused by too much fluoride, a dentist may bleach the teeth to remove stains. Or the dentist may bond resin fillings onto the tooth to cover stains.

References

Citations

  1. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (2013). Guidelines on fluoride therapy. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/G_FluorideTherapy.pdf. Accessed December 3, 2013.

Credits

Current as of:
February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Arden Christen DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry