In 1945, researchers conducted a large-scale, 15-year study, to determine the effect of adding low-dose fluoride to Grand Rapids, Michigan’s public drinking water. That study resulted in a 60% reduction in tooth decay and launched one of the most successful public health programs of the 20th century.
Approximately 66% of the U.S. population receives the benefit of fluoridated drinking water, but many Philadelphia suburban communities do not, including Marple Newtown. Fortunately, parents have many ways to ensure that their children receive the fluoride needed to develop healthy, cavity-resistant teeth.
Naturally Occurring Fluoride
Public water and well water typically contain some measure of naturally occurring fluoride. Our local municipal water utility can provide up-to-date test data on the mineral concentrations of its water. And it’s inexpensive for well water users to have their water tested for the same compounds. In either case, the recommended concentration of fluoride in drinking water is 0.7mg per liter. For children 6 months to 14 years, this should account for 40% to 70% of their total recommended daily fluoride intake.
Beginning at 6 months of age, infants and children up to 16 years of age should be given fluoride supplementation if fluoride in their drinking water is less than 0.3 mg per liter. Your pediatrician or pediatric dentist can prescribe fluoride supplements in the form of drops or tablets.
Fluoridated Bottled Water
Many families today prefer to drink bottled water rather than their home’s tap water. One way to ensure that formula-fed infants are getting enough fluoride is to make their formula using fluoridated bottled water. For the rest of the family, the IBWA website has a list of bottlers that follow FDA guidelines for fluoride.
Common Foods High in Fluoride
One of the best food sources of fluoride is grapes, grape juice and especially raisins. Other foods such as spinach, blue crab, shrimp, carrots and potatoes also tend to contain significant concentrations of fluoride.
Toothpaste and Mouthwash
The most effective source of topical fluoride in the home is fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash. Children who brush twice a day with toothpaste containing 1000–1500 parts per million of fluoride have been shown to be significantly more resistant to tooth decay. Daily use of fluoridated mouthwash is also advantageous for older children and teens.
Your dental professional can apply fluoride varnish to your children’s teeth at their six-month visits. This is an easy, safe and effective way to deliver fluoride to the outer surfaces of the teeth.
We are fortunate to live in a time when the simple and judicious use of fluoride can have a great and lasting effect on the health of our children’s teeth for the rest of their lives.