A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.
You probably started preparing for the birth of your child long before they arrived. You would have stocked up on the supplies you'll need, have spent time preparing the nursery, and perhaps read a parenting book or two (or ten). You might think about taking the same approach with your baby's teeth—preparing for them before they actually develop. Of course, fluoride helps teeth remain strong, so wouldn't it make sense to be sure that your baby gets plenty of fluoride before their teeth even grow?
Fluoride and Mineralization
Fluoride helps the mineralization of teeth. Your teeth are protected by a coating of dental enamel, which is highly mineralized and incredibly strong. Demineralization weakens enamel (and if untreated, can remove entire sections of it), making the tooth more prone to cavities. Fluoride can help to prevent this demineralization, so is it just a case of your baby consuming extra fluoride to make their enamel as strong as possible? It's not quite that simple.
The Problem With Excessive Fluoride
Don't give a baby any extra fluoride (in the form of supplements). Extra fluoride in infancy can in fact damage teeth before they erupt from the gumline. Fluorosis is the result of this excessive fluoride during tooth development. Mild fluorosis looks like obvious white spots on the teeth (which is generally just a cosmetic concern), and the teeth may still be quite strong, and even resistant to cavities. More advanced fluorosis can cause teeth to become brittle, and especially prone to cavities and breakage, despite the concentration of fluoride that they've been exposed to.
Discuss the Matter With Your Child's Dentist
The question of extra fluoride should only be asked when your child begins attending their regular appointments at your local family dentistry provider (which should happen once their first tooth has erupted). Your child's dentist will discuss your child's dietary and oral hygiene habits, and it might be that they already obtain sufficient fluoride. For example, their needs may already be met by fluoridated water, and/or the fluoride in their toothpaste. Your child's dentist will then administer fluoride treatments as needed, during your child's regular checkups. Some patients may require fluoride supplements, but this is determined on a case-by-case basis.
When it comes to fluoride and your child's teeth, don't assume more is better and take matters into your own hands. However, you should be sure to discuss the matter with your child's dentist, just in case some extra fluoride is in your child's best interests.