What is fluoride? Is it safe for my children? I hear these questions a lot. I also hear a lot of misinformation regarding fluoride, so I thought it might be a good topic to cover since fluoride is actually really important!
*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information on this blog should not be used as a substitute to medical advice or medical treatment. As always, your Primary Care Provider, a doctor, or another health professional is your best resource for specific questions and medical advice. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911.*
Wait.. what even is fluoride?!
Honestly, this is a good question. What is fluoride? You probably know it has something to do with teeth, and that water in many places contains it.
Fluoride is a mineral. Minerals are natural (this might shock some anti-fluoride people who I think believe it is not natural) and inorganic – meaning, they are not alive like you or me. You could compare them to a cake – check this page out for that great analogy and simple breakdown.
Fluoride is present in water, as well as soil and some food sources.
Why have I heard that fluoride is bad?
Too much fluoride has been linked to a condition called dental fluorosis. It occurs when young children consume over the recommended amount of fluoride and causes white specks or streaking to appear on the teeth.
It does not cause any pain and would likely only be noticeable to a trained professional, like your dentist. Only about ~16% of children in Canada are affected by it, and usually they nor their parents notice.
It is actually a cosmetic issue, and no studies have found any other negative health effects related to increased consumption.
You can help to prevent it – not by not drinking fluoridated water – but by having your child spit toothpaste and any mouthwash out instead of swallowing it and making sure they get the recommended amount of toothpaste when brushing.
What is the recommended amount? The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association say to use only a smear of toothpaste (like a piece of rice) up to age three (generally, you can start brushing your babies teeth when their first tooth emerges, with a soft-bristled kid brush). After age 3, they recommend a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
I am not sure exactly why people are so suspicious about fluoride – but I think a lot of the worry stems from a belief that it is not natural because it is, in some areas, added to our water…
So why is fluoride added to some water sources?
If fluoride occurs naturally in some sources, why do we add it to the water we drink? It actually has benefits for our teeth – by helping to prevent decay (cavities)!
And it is not just added willy-nilly to your water supply – it is monitored and levels are kept within a certain range (or an “optimal” range) that helps to prevent decay and avoid fluorosis.
How does it prevent tooth decay?
If you want to have a detailed conversation about this, I recommend talking to your dentist! I don’t get to give dentists enough credit on here so here I am – they are your most reliable resource for information about your teeth and gums!
Briefly: fluoride deposits in your bones (and teeth) and helps with the hardening of the enamel as teeth come in, and continues to do so when you have adult teeth! It is more complex than this, so check out this page and/or talk to your dentist if you have specific questions.
Can I use fluoridated water with formula?
It is considered safe to do this by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association. The risk with doing this is simply that it may cause mild fluorosis – so if you’re concerned, ask questions at your dentist (or your paediatrician if you’re not quite at dentist visit age yet).
You by no means need to use fluoridated water to mix with your formula (you can use bottled or purified water too – it is what you as a parent are comfortable with), but contrary to what you might hear down the grapevine – it is safe.
So you’re telling me water with fluoride is actually safe and helpful for my baby?!
Yes! The AAP, the ADA, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Canadian Dental Association (among other reputable sources!) say yes it is safe for children and beneficial in the prevention of cavities.
If you have more questions – talk to your dentist or pediatrician, and check out the resources I’ve linked! This one has a great way to explain fluoride to your older child (and why it is so important).
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