You know about the fluoride in your child's toothpaste, but did you know that sometimes it's not enough to prevent tooth decay? Fluoride drops can be prescribed by a dentist to help prevent cavities in children while their first teeth are still forming.
Fluoride in All Its Forms
Prescription fluoride can be dispensed topically via gels, mouth rinses or toothpaste. For infants, however, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that fluoride should also be administered systemically, in drinking water or in supplemental liquids and tablets. When it is taken orally, the fluoride travels through the body and is released in saliva to fortify the teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to decay. Drops can be a safe and effective way to measure and provide infants with a systemic dose of fluoride appropriate to their age and oral health needs.
Why Give Infants Fluoride Drops?
Fluoride drops are prescribed to prevent cavities in primary and permanent teeth while the teeth are forming, the ADA writes. Drops are often recommended for children who live in areas where the water supply is not fortified with fluoride, as it is in parts of the U.S. and other countries, such as Canada and Australia. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regularly conducts a peer-reviewed scientific study to determine safe levels of fluoride in public water.
Dispensing Fluoride Drops
To prescribe a fluoride supplement, a dentist or doctor must first find out the amount of fluoride present in a child's drinking water. A local or state health department can test your water if you have a well or don't know the amount. Fluoride ion concentration is measured in parts per million for both drinking water and supplemental dosage, but drops will usually be pre-mixed and measured in milligrams, says the ADA.
Liquid fluoride can be given to a child with or without food, and sometimes diluted with water or juice, writes Drugs.com. Some prescriptions require the fluoride drops to be given daily and others only once a week. Most pharmacists recommend a baby or toddler wait two hours after medication is taken to eat, drink or take other medications.
Just like any other medication, it's important to keep fluoride out of the reach of children. If an excess amount is ingested it could cause stomach pain, indigestion or diarrhea, says the National Centers for Poison Control. Another mild risk of too much fluoride over time is the potential for fluorosis, a condition marked by white spots on baby teeth. Though it may look strange, fluorosis is generally harmless and does not often affect permanent teeth.
Daily Home Care
While prescription fluoride is proven to be effective in decreasing cavities, it's also important to practice good oral hygiene with your child. Start consulting a dentist when your baby is around 6 months old or as soon as their first tooth erupts. Keeping your baby's mouth healthy is one of the first steps toward lifelong oral health.