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Fluoride Is Crucial to a Lifetime of Good Dental Health

Dental health is critical to your children’s overall health. If their teeth are not developing right or receiving the proper care, it can affect their long-term well-being.

To make sure your child has and maintains good dental health, take advantage of fluoride in the water. Fluoridated water is one of the easiest, most inexpensive ways to prevent tooth decay. It also reduces dental care costs and improves our health. To benefit from fluoride, all you have to do is drink the tap water in your home.

Fluoride prevents tooth decay in two ways: 1. It’s built into the structure of developing teeth when it’s swallowed. 2. It protects teeth when it comes in contact with the surface of the teeth.

For 65 years, people in Tennessee have benefited from drinking water with fluoride, leading to better dental health. Eighty-eight percent of the tap water in Tennessee has fluoride.

Drinking water is crucial to our health, and people may choose bottled water for different reasons. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says most bottled waters contain fluoride levels that are less than ideal for good oral health. So it’s important to also drink tap water at home.

Why Kids Need Fluoride

Getting enough fluoride in childhood is critical to strengthening our teeth for an entire lifetime. Research indicates fluoride helps reduces tooth decay by about 29%. When children drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste, they are less likely to lose teeth because of decay as adults—even 40 or 50 years later.

Tips for Using Fluoride

Research shows that using fluoride toothpaste isn’t enough. Kids also need fluoridated water to have the best protection against tooth decay.

Here are some tips for using fluoride from KidsHealth.org:

  • Generally, kids under the age of 6 months don’t need fluoride supplements. If you live in an area that doesn’t have fluoride in the water, your doctor or dentist may prescribe fluoride drops, tablets or vitamins after your baby is 6 months old. The dosage depends on how much fluoride naturally occurs in the water and your child's age.
  • Only kids living in non-fluoridated areas or those who drink only non-fluoridated bottled water should receive fluoride supplements.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association's seal of acceptance.
  • Brush your baby’s teeth with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice).
  • If you use baby toothpaste without fluoride, still use about the size of a grain of rice. You want to limit any toothpaste swallowed.
  • Children ages 3 and older should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Kids under age 6 may swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. Supervise them when brushing and teach them to spit, not swallow, the toothpaste.
  • Children under 6 should never use fluoride mouth rinses. But older kids at high risk for tooth decay may benefit from them.

If you have questions, your pediatrician, family dentist or pediatric dentist is a good resource for information about fluoride and dental care.

Additional Resources

For more information on fluoride and dental health, visit ilikemyteeth.org. The website is run by the Campaign for Dental Health, an American Academy of Pediatrics program. It provides infographics on fluoride, answers to FAQs about fluoride and other resources.

For tips to boost your dental health and other important oral health information, visit mouthhealthy.org of the American Dental Association.

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