Oral surgeons across the country, along with the American Dental Association, want parents to keep National Children’s Dental Health Month in mind this February.
“Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile” is the theme for this year. Bottled water may be popular, but tap water can be a better choice for your children’s oral health.
Why Oral Surgeons and the ADA Advise Drinking Tap Water
Fluoride is a cavity fighter, and the mineral is present in water supplies, but the trace amount that occurs naturally is not enough to prevent tooth decay.
According to the ADA, an optimal level of fluoride can reduce tooth decay by at least 25 percent in both children and adults. For this reason, fluoride is added to the municipal water supply in most communities to help prevent cavities.
Bottled water often comes from the same municipal groundwater source as tap water, and is not necessarily any cleaner or safer to drink. In fact, the FDA quality standards for bottled water are not as strict as the EPA’s standards for tap water.
The real issue for oral surgeons, however, is the fact that bottled water doesn’t usually have added fluoride. Consequently, drinking bottled instead of tap water offers no dental health benefits.
How Fluoride Benefits Dental Health
Fluoride in the foods and beverages your child consumes strengthens developing tooth enamel, even before teeth break through the gums. As the hard surfaces of the teeth become stronger, they are better able to resist decay. So consuming enough fluoride early in life has a positive effect on our lifelong oral health.
Once the teeth erupt, fluoride can help rebuild weakened tooth enamel. Drinking tap water puts the mineral in saliva, and works to prevent and reverse tooth decay.
When Children Should Use Fluoride Dental Health Products
Oral surgeons caution that children who ingest too much fluoride when the teeth are still under the gums can develop dental fluorosis, or a change in the appearance of the tooth enamel. This condition has no effect on tooth function and is usually quite subtle, but parents typically prefer to avoid the mild enamel spots or discoloration.
To prevent dental fluorosis, oral surgeons recommend that parents brush the teeth of children younger than 3, using a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste — about the size of a grain of rice.
Children between 3 and 6 years old can brush on their own with supervision. But parents should be in charge of the fluoride toothpaste, dispensing just a pea-sized amount.
Mouth rinses that contain fluoride can provide additional resistance to tooth decay. But oral surgeons advise that children under age 6 should not use these dental health products, as they may end up swallowing the fluoride rinse instead of spitting it out.
Oral Surgeons Address Parent Concerns about Fluoride
The ADA has prepared an excellent set of scientific resources to help parents learn about fluoride safety. If local water safety is a concern for your family, your dentist or oral surgeon can prescribe fluoride supplements for your child, or you can buy fluoridated bottled water.
To learn more, talk to us about fluoride during your next visit, or check out some of the excellent online information regarding kids’ oral health.
If you have concerns regarding your kids’ teeth, schedule an evaluation with the professional oral surgeons at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah. We are committed to providing exceptional care for your entire family. Contact one of our Salt Lake City area offices today.