Fluoride During Childhood - Topic Overview
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent
tooth decay and
dental cavities. It is added to local water supplies,
toothpastes, and other mouth care products. Pediatric dentists recommend that you use a "smear" (very small amount) of fluoride toothpaste on your baby's toothbrush as soon as your baby's teeth start to come in. When your child is age 2 years, it's okay to start to use a pea-sized amount.1
Most communities in the United
States have fluoride added to their water supply. Studies show a reduction in tooth decay of 50% or more in children if fluoride is added to a community's
water supply.2 To find out how much fluoride is in your
drinking water, call your local water company or the state health department.
have your own well, have the state health department check your water to find
out if your family needs fluoride from other sources. Normal amounts of fluoride added to public water supplies and bottled water are safe for children and adults.
If your child has a high risk of getting cavities, your dentist may recommend
additional sources of fluoride. These include supplements or a gel or varnish that the dentist would apply to your child's teeth. Use supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.
Too much fluoride swallowed during the
early childhood years may cause white, brown, or black spots or streaks on the
outside of the teeth (fluorosis). This may also cause the tooth enamel to
- Fluorosis develops during the first 8 years of
childhood while the outer
enamel layer of the teeth is still growing.
- Fluorosis is not
harmful to your general health. In rare, severe cases of stains caused by too
much fluoride, a dentist may bleach the teeth to remove stains or may bond
resin fillings onto the tooth to cover stains.
Can fluoride be dangerous?
safe in the amounts provided in water supplies but can be toxic in large
amounts. Toxic levels depend on your child's weight. A lethal dose of fluoride
for a 3-year-old child is 500 mg and is even
less for a younger child or infant. Keep all products containing fluoride, such
as toothpastes and mouthwashes, away from children. If you think your child may
have swallowed too much fluoride, call your local poison control center or the National Poison Control Hotline right away at