Approximately 530 million children, a quarter of all children worldwide, suffer from untreated cavities in their primary (baby) teeth. Children are more susceptible to cavities as the protective layer on enamel is slightly thinner on baby teeth when compared with adult teeth.
Fluoride has been proven to be effective in strengthening the tooth surface and preventing cavities for both children and adults. Fluoride can be found in a range of oral hygiene products for use at home including toothpaste and mouthwash.
Some patients may have questions about the use of fluoride for oral care in children. There can be an overwhelming amount of information online, both fact and fiction, which can be confusing for parents and carers. Below we have answered some FAQs about the use of fluoride for children.
Why is a toothpaste or mouthwash containing fluoride recommended for children?
FACT: For cavity prevention, fluoride is the most proven solution for both children and adults.
Fluoride in toothpaste has the highest possible grade of evidence and support from almost all relevant dental and medical organisations across the world, including the World Health Organisation (WHO). A recent systematic review by the established Cochrane organisation showed that fluoride containing toothpastes reduce the development of cavities by 24%.
Is fluoride safe for children?
FACT: Fluoride has been recognised as being safe and effective by almost every dental and medical association in the world, including WHO. Fluoride toothpaste has an excellent safety record going back over 50 years. It has been used safely by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Fluoride toothpaste is not intended to be ingested. As young children are inclined to swallow toothpaste when cleaning their teeth, it is recommended that the brushing of children below six years of age should be supervised by adults.
I am concerned about my child being overexposed to fluoride. Will it cause fluorosis?
FACT: The small amount of fluoride that children would ingest during brushing with a fluoride toothpaste should not lead to fluorosis.
There is no scientific evidence to link the use of fluoridated toothpaste with the problem of systemic fluorosis even in endemic areas. Fluorosis is caused by the long term, high ingestion of fluoride into the bloodstream during the first years of life (ages 8 and younger) and can cause white or even brown lines on teeth.
How does fluoride protect a child’s teeth against cavities? Would reducing the amount of sugar in my child’s diet do the same thing?
FACT: Fluoride is added to toothpastes because it has been found to be beneficial in strengthening tooth surfaces and preventing dental cavities.
Sugars are in almost everything children eat. This includes drinks and snacks, but also fruits and vegetables which are required as part of a balanced diet. Therefore reducing sugars alone is not enough to protect your child’s teeth.
When we eat sugar, the bacteria living on our teeth use this sugar to grow and multiply. Dense bacterial masses (biofilms) form on the hard tissue and produce acids that attack our teeth and cause mineral loss in enamel and cavities.
Fluoride strengthens the enamel surface to repair the damage caused by sugar acid attacks, reverses early cavities and prevents further decay. Fluoride also supports the saliva’s natural ability to remineralize enamel in-between sugar acid attacks.
Can you recommend me a natural, chemical-free alternative for my child?
FACT: Fluoride is derived from natural calcium mineral deposits in rock.
Fluoride-based oral care products are the gold standard for preventing cavities in children and adults.
If you want to read more about fluoride, preventing dental caries, or tips for looking after your teeth at home, then we recommend exploring the dedicated patient area of our website: https://www.acffglobal.org/resources/for-your-patients/