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drinking water

Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, is essential for proper tooth development and the prevention of tooth decay. In communities throughout the United States, tooth decay may still be a significant problem — but it is far less prevalent than it would have been, if not for the fluoridation of public water supplies. That’s why the major associations of pediatric dentists and doctors support water fluoridation to the current recommended levels of 0.70 parts per million (ppm). It’s also why the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called fluoridated water one of the most significant health achievements of the 20th century.

Of course, not everyone has access to fluoridated water. That’s one reason why a fluoride supplement is often recommended for your child and/or the use of toothpastes and other products that contain this important mineral. Because it is possible for children to get too much fluoride, it is best to seek professional advice on the use of any fluoride-containing product.

How Fluoride Helps

The protective outer layer of teeth, called enamel, is often subject to attacks from acids. These can come directly from acidic foods and beverages, such as sodas and citrus fruits — or sometimes through a middleman: the decay-causing bacteria already in the mouth that create acid from sugar. These bacteria congregate in dental plaque and feed on sugar that is not cleansed from your child’s mouth. In metabolizing (breaking down) sugar, the bacteria produce acids that can eat through tooth enamel. This is how cavities are formed. When fluoride is present, it becomes part of the crystalline structure of tooth enamel, hardening it and making it more resistant to acid attack. Fluoride can even help repair small cavities that are already forming.

Delivering Fluoride to the Teeth

correct toothpaste amount

Fluoride ingested by children in drinking water or supplements can be taken up by their developing permanent teeth. Once a tooth has erupted, it can be strengthened by fluoride topically (on the surface). Using a fluoride-containing toothpaste is one way to make sure your children’s teeth receive helpful fluoride exposure daily. We recommend using only a pea-sized amount for children ages 2-6 and just a tiny smear for kids under two. Fluoride should not be used on children younger than six months. A very beneficial way to deliver fluoride to the teeth is with topical fluoride applications painted right onto your child’s teeth and allowed to sit for a few minutes for maximum effectiveness.

How Much Is Too Much?

Teeth that are over-exposed to fluoride as they are forming beneath the gum line can develop a condition called enamel fluorosis, which is characterized by a streaked or mottled appearance. Mild fluorosis takes the form of white spots that are hard to see. In more severe cases (which are rare), the discoloration can be darker, with a pitted texture. The condition is not harmful, but may eventually require cosmetic dental treatment. Tooth decay, on the other hand, is harmful to your child’s health and can also be quite painful in severe cases.

The risk for fluorosis ends by the time a child is about 9 and all the permanent teeth have fully formed. Since fluoride use is cumulative, all the sources your child comes in contact with — including powdered infant formula mixed with fluoridated tap water — need to be evaluated. While caution is advised, however, it would be a mistake to forgo the benefits that this important mineral can bring to your child’s teeth — and his or her overall health.

5-Star-Rated Walla Walla Family Dentist & Cosmetic Dentist, Proudly Serving The Walla Walla Valley…

"My previous dentist retired, and Dr. Gustavsen was recommended to me by a reliable source. I was able to get into the office immediately for a checkup, repair of a broken filling, and even a cleaning. The entire staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and made me feel comfortable. I scheduled my next cleaning for six months from now."
- Gayle K. gayle testimony
"From the receptionist, to the dental assistants and the doctor, everyone in this office is very friendly and professional. They make you feel welcome and are always smiling. This is probably the best dental office I have ever been to. I highly recommend this place."
- Esmeralda R. esmeralda testimony
"It has been awhile since I have been to the dentist. I was nervous about going but they were extremely welcoming. They are super easy to deal with as I have a pretty busy schedule. If they cannot do something at their office they will refer you to someone who can (wisdom teeth removal). I would recommend this dental company to anyone. Whether they have really great teeth or horrible; the staff will get you back on track!"
- Jaimee R. jaimee testimony
"First time visiting a dentist in the Walla Walla area. They were very professional and the office staff was awesome! They entertained my kids with movies and train tracks. Also made them feel special by giving them all kinds of prizes and even a toothbrush! Will definitely be back."
- Krystal K. krystal testimony
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Walla Walla, WA 99324

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