Focus on Fluoride

Children who receive a balanced diet will get all the nutrients they need with one possible exception-fluoride. Fluoride is vital for strong, decay resistant teeth. Fluoride is one of the most effective elements for preventing tooth decay. This mineral combines with tooth enamel to strengthen it against decay. Fluoride may reverse microscopic cavities by enhancing the process in which minerals, including calcium, are incorporated into the teeth.

The most effective way for your child to get fluoride’s protection is by drinking water containing the right amount of mineral, (about one part fluoride per million parts water). This is of special benefit to children, because fluoride is built into the enamel as teeth form. Children who from birth drink water containing fluoride have up to 50 percent fewer cavities. Many of them remain cavity free through their teens.

Although it is beneficial for a child to brush with a fluoride toothpaste, children under age six should be supervised to avoid swallowing toothpaste. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and rinse with water after brushing.

Before you give your child any vitamin or supplement that contains fluoride, check with your dentist to see if one is needed. Based on your dentist’s assessment of your family’s oral health, the use of additional fluoride-containing products may or may not be recommended.

Fluoride supplements should be considered for children drinking fluoride-deficient water. Before supplements are prescribed, it is essential to know the fluoride concentration of the patient’s drinking water. This can be achieved through a laboratory water analysis. In addition, it is also important to evaluate other sources of consumed fluoride (food and beverages) and where fluoride has been removed from the patient’s diet (bottled water, in-house filtration systems). The child’s predominant source of water should be optimally fluoridated or a supplement should be prescribed.

The caries-preventative effects of prenatal fluoride supplements on primary teeth are unproven and their use is not supported by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

To obtain both topical and systemic effects, fluoride supplements should contact the teeth prior to being swallowed. For liquid preparation, place the drops directly on the child’s teeth. Older children should be encouraged to chew and swish their fluoride tablets prior to swallowing.


Please Note: The safety and effectiveness of fluoride is supported by professional associations and research. Like many other nutrients, fluoride is beneficial in small amounts and toxic in large doses. When prescribing fluoride supplements no more than 264 mg of sodium fluoride (125 mg fluoride) should be dispensed at one time. In addition to the use of childproof containers, each package dispensed should say “Store out of reach of children.”