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. 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.1

To find out how much fluoride is in your drinking water, call your local water company or the state health department. If you 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 needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend supplements. Use these 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.

Ask your doctor or dentist whether your children need fluoride treatments. If your children need fluoride, your dentist will recommend additional sources of fluoride. Research shows that fluoride gels, toothpastes, and varnishes reduce tooth decay in children and teens.2

Fluorosis

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 become rough.

  • 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?

Fluoride is 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 1-800-222-1222.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Bailey WD (2009). Community water fluoridation. In NO Harris et al., eds., Primary Preventive Dentistry, 7th ed., pp. 212–238. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  2. Campbell PR (2009). Topical fluoride therapy. In NO Harris et al., eds., Primary Preventive Dentistry, 7th ed., pp. 245–271. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised January 7, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker