By Perry Francis, DDS
In Washoe County, the drinking water that comes out of our faucets is not fluoridated. Does it matter?
The short answer is yes. It would be great if our water were fluoridated, but it’s not. This means we need to get our fluoride in other ways.
Why fluoride matters
The American Dental Association shares that, “Community water fluoridation is so effective at preventing tooth decay that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named it one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”
Studies show that when public water is fluoridated to an optimal level, there is a 35 percent reduction in missing and filled baby teeth and 26 percent fewer decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth.
We recommend that we see a child for the first time before age 1. There are times when we do our exams that we notice the child already has early stages of decay on the upper front teeth. The first thing we do is show parents the optimal way to brush their child’s teeth, after which we will instruct them to apply a very small amount of concentrated fluoride gel on the areas showing signs of decay. We will follow up in three months to see if the decay has been arrested. Most of the time, we find that the decayed surface has hardened, and there is no further advancement of the decay.
So how does this amazing substance work? KidsHealth.org explains: “Fluoride prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel, the hard and shiny substance that protects the teeth. Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, themselves. Fluoride cannot repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from forming.”
Adding Fluoride to Your Routine
Because it is such a valuable tool, one of the first things we discuss with our parents when they come to our office is fluoride. We talk about their sources of fluoride and if there is a need for daily supplementation in the form of prescription pills or drops for their children.
In our office, we also talk about family history, whether there’s a physical impediment to brushing and good dental hygiene habits.
We recommend that our families use ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste. KidsHealth.org shares these additional tips:
- Brush babies’ teeth as they come in with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). If you are using baby toothpaste without the fluoride, keep it to the same amount because you still want to minimize any toothpaste that is swallowed.
- Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Kids younger than 6 may swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. Supervise them when brushing and teach them to spit, not swallow, the toothpaste.
- Kids under age 6 should never use fluoride-containing mouth rinses. But older kids at high risk for tooth decay may benefit from them.
It would be best if the parent dispenses the toothpaste, and children must be taught not to swallow it.
In communities without fluoridated water, the ADA recommends prescription fluoride supplements. This prescription can be written by the child’s healthcare provider or dentist. If the child is taking a fluoride supplement, the recommended amount of toothpaste used is rice or grain-sized, not pea-sized.
Our goal is optimal dental health for our patients, and fluoride is a significant contribution to this, as are regular dental visits. If you’re in need of a dentist for your children, give us a call. We’re happy to consult with you to determine what makes the most sense for your family.
Dr. Perry Francis, his wife and two children have called Reno home for 34 years. At his practice, Wild About Smiles, his team specializes in dental care for infants, children, young adults and people with special needs. He has offices in Sparks (very close to Reno, given its convenient freeway access at 395 and North McCarran) and Fallon.
This post is paid content and does not represent the views of ThisisReno. Want to promote your business, event, or issue? Consider a sponsored post.