Guest Blog Post by Lori Byron, MD, FAAP, Member Executive Committee, Council on Environmental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics
Good overall health includes good oral health! Fortunately, dental health has improved radically in the past century. Unfortunately, Black, Latinx, and Native American children, and those from families with low incomes, continue to experience health disparities, oral health disparities among them.
Fluoride, a naturally occurring element found in varying levels in all water sources, has played a large role in the progress we have made to date. Pediatricians acknowledge the conclusions of health experts that fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay.
Fluoride in recommended amounts has been deemed safe and effective by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many other science-based organizations. Fluoride strengthens the teeth and helps prevent decay. As a pediatrician, I always prefer prevention measures for health rather than treatment.
Many of us live where fluoride in sufficient amount is not available in our water. If this is the case for your children, be sure you are using fluoride toothpaste and ask your dentist or pediatrician about fluoride varnish. Most pediatric offices are equipped to apply fluoride varnish to your child’s teeth during a routine visit. The treatment can be repeated two to four times a year and is performed with your child leaning back in your lap. It takes only a few minutes, and the taste is acceptable to most children.
Just like immunizations, iodine in our salt, Vitamin D in our milk, and well child care, fluoride treatments are a way to help prevent disease and keep your child healthier. Drinking plenty of water, avoiding sugary drinks, limiting candy, and brushing every day with fluoridated toothpaste also helps! Please ask your pediatrician or your dentist if you have questions.