Fluoride from drinking water and other sources such as toothpaste can strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent tooth decay. Below is a list of questions that parents frequently ask about fluoride and how it can help their children.
Q: Why do children need fluoride?
A: Fluoride is an important mineral for all children. Bacteria in the mouth combine with sugars and produce acid that can harm tooth enamel and damage teeth. Fluoride protects teeth from acid damage and helps reverse early signs of decay. Make sure your children are drinking plenty of water and brushing with toothpaste that has fluoride in it.
Q: Is fluoridated water safe for my children?
A: Yes. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agree that water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay.
Q: Should I mix infant formula with fluoridated water?
A: According to the ADA, it is safe to use fluoridated water to mix infant formula. The risk if mixing infant formula with fluoridated water is mild fluorosis (see below for more information on this condition). However, if you have concerns about this, talk with your pediatrician or dentist.
Q: What if I prefer not to use fluoridated water for infant formula?
A: If you prefer not to use fluoridated water with formula, you can:
- Breastfeed your baby
- Use bottled or purified water that has no fluoride with the formula
- Use ready-to-feed formula that does not need water to be added
Q: What if we live in a community where the water is not fluoridated? What can we do?
A: Check with your local water utility agency to find out if your water has fluoride in it. If it doesn’t, ask your pediatrician or dentist if your child is at HIGH risk for dental caries (also known as tooth decay or a cavity). He or she may recommend you buy fluoridated water or give you a prescription for fluoride drops or tablets for your child.
Q: How else can my child get fluoride?
A: There are many sources of fluoride. Fluoridated water and toothpaste are the most common. It is also found in many foods and beverages. So making sure your child eats a balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D is a great way to keep teeth healthy. Your dentist or pediatrician may also recommend a topical fluoride treatment during well child or dental visits at various stages of your child’s development.
Q: When should my child start using fluoride toothpaste?
A: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using a “smear” of toothpaste on children under the age of two twice each day. Children aged 2-5 can use a “pea-size” amount.
Recommendations regarding the use of fluoride toothpaste in children under the age of 2 vary. Talk to your pediatrician or dentist about what is best for your child.
Q: What is dental fluorosis and will fluoridated water mixed with infant formula increase the risk?
A: Although using fluoridated water to prepare infant formula might increase the risk of dental fluorosis, most cases are mild.
Fluorosis usually appears as very faint white streaks on the teeth. Often it is only noticeable by a dental expert during an exam. Mild fluorosis is not painful and does not affect the function or health of the teeth. Click here for examples from the American Dental Association on what mild fluorosis looks like.
Once your child’s adult teeth come in (usually around age 8), the risk of developing fluorosis is over.