David M. LeMay, DDS     General Dentistry     (828) 586-2870




Fluoride has been a big influence in reducing the amount of decay in teeth since its discovery and introduction in the late 1950’s. It is truly a magic bullet. What other medication can not only help prevent a disease but reverse it if it has started? Fluoride has even been shown to influence the groove anatomy of the developing posterior permanent teeth in a way that makes the teeth less likely to get decay in the first place. Wow!

Two types of fluoride are used to reduce decay: TOPICAL FLUORIDE that repairs early lesions on teeth by its presence in solution in the mouth through oral rinses, toothpaste and topical fluoride treatments at your child’s dental cleanings; and SYSTEMIC FLUORIDE that we ingest by its presence in what we eat or drink or in prescription fluoride supplements given to young children whose permanent teeth are beginning to form.

Systemic fluoride can reduce the most common kind of decay seen in the mouth - decay in deep grooves and pits of the biting surfaces of posterior teeth that your toothbrush cannot effectively clean. As mentioned above, Systemic fluoride has been shown to statistically correlate with grooves that are shallower and thereby less susceptible to decay.  So clearly systemic fluoride is beneficial. But what about too much fluoride?

Too much systemic fluoride in young children can lead to dental fluorosis (discolored brown or white areas of weak enamel) in their permanent teeth. How are kids exposed to too much systemic fluoride? Where does their fluoride exposure come from? There are several sources. Children tend to ingest about half of the toothpaste they brush with and who can blame them, it tastes great! This is probably the main source. (Be sure and check on your kids and make sure they use only a pea size amount on their brush to limit the amount of fluoride ingested.) Also, any processed foods like canned veggies or reconstituted apple juice may contain city water, which generally is fluoridated. School water systems may be supplemented with higher concentrations of fluoride especially in areas where most kids are on well water. It all adds up. If your child is taking a multivitamin there may be fluoride there as well. All these sources are potential avenues for beneficial systemic fluoride. Since most kids get enough fluoride through these sources, additional supplements like prescription fluoride drops or tablets may be unnecessary. Talk to your dentist about your child’s need for supplemental fluoride drops or tablets.

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