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Flouride for children: yay or nay?

Fluoride works in two ways. It can be incorporated into tooth enamel while the tooth is developing deep in the jaw bone, such as through fluoridated water, or by topical application to the erupted tooth crown, such as with fluoridated toothpaste.

Sources of fluoride include:

  • Municipal water supplies. 
  • Toothpastes.
  • Dentist-applied topical fluoride on your child’s semi-annual visit.
  • Dentist-prescribed supplements.
  • Over-the-counter vitamin preparations.
  • Fruit juices and soft drinks, depending upon where they were bottled.

The swallowing of too much fluoride by young children during tooth development is not a good practice because too much may cause white or brown flecked spots on the enamel. Even if your local water supply is not fluoridated, your child may be getting adequate amounts of fluoride from other sources.


  • The Canadian Dental Association recommends that no fluoride supplements be given to children under the age of six and that supplements then be started only for children who exhibit a high risk of developing decay.
  • Fluoride supplements may be prescribed for children who exhibit a high risk for developing decay, but only in consultation with a dentist.
  • Avoid fluoride containing vitamin supplements for children under the age of six.
  • Keep all fluoride containing toothpastes out of the reach of your child, particularly the children’s low fluoride formulas because they taste good – adult formulated toothpastes are less likely to be eaten and swallowed.

For most children, fluoridated municipal water, fluoride toothpaste and biannual dentist-applied topical fluorides are probably adequate for decay prevention. If your water supply is not fluoridated, a fluoride-containing rinse may be used provided your child is old enough to spit it out and not swallow it. 

The Canadian Dental Association recommends the following guidelines for children under 6 years of age who use fluoridated toothpastes:

  • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste should normally occur twice a day.
  • Brushing should be supervised by an adult.
  • A pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be dispensed, preferably by the supervising adult.
  • Swallowing should be discouraged. (After brushing, spit out, rinse with water, and then spit out the rinse.)

a man carrying two children

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