Is toothpaste with fluoride a good choice for my child?

Through contact with the teeth, fluoride is absorbed into the tooth enamel and makes the enamel harder. As a result, the teeth are less susceptible to damage by acids, and this prevents cavities. However, fluoride does not only enter the tooth enamel. Whether it is applied or consumed, some fluoride enters the rest of the body as well.

There are four ways in which fluoride enters the bodies of children. 1) It is added to drinking water; 2) it is consumed when toothpaste is swallowed (research has shown that four to six year-old children still swallow approximately 30% of the toothpaste used); 3) it is applied at the dentist’s office directly to the teeth; and 4) in some cases, it is administered orally in the form of fluoride tablets. Through any means of exposure, because of their smaller body size, children will typically receive a higher dose of fluoride per unit of body mass as adults.

When we expose children to fluoride, a portion of the fluoride enters their bones. This contributes to higher fluoride levels in the bone at a younger age than would have been the case without artificial exposure to fluoride. It is interesting to note that breast milk contains very little fluoride. Even if a nursing mother is given fluoride tables, the levels of fluoride in the breast milk remain very low.

Hence, to my mind, there is reason to question whether a child’s body is capable of processing and disposing of excess fluoride in a healthy way. From the standpoint of certain healing traditions (such as that of anthroposophical medicine), the exposure of children to excess fluoride may have developmental and psychological influences which we do not yet fully understand.

However, some influences are clear and factual. If people are overexposed to fluoride, for example, they can develop white spots and/or brown blemishes on the enamel of the teeth, as well as grooves in the enamel. Among adults, excessive levels of fluoride can lead to joint stiffness and pain, as well as to increased risk of fractures.

Tips:

- Only use fluorinated toothpaste at such time as the child is capable of thoroughly rinsing and spitting out the toothpaste after brushing.

- Consider using a fluoride-free toothpaste, especially if there is already fluoride in the drinking water.

- If you use fluorinated toothpaste, use just a tiny bit on the toothbrush.

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