Diet Plays a Varied Role in Providing Kids With Fluoride

Dentistry Today


Fluoride is essential to healthy teeth. However, diet plays a widely varying role in supplying children with beneficial amounts of fluoride. A team of researchers at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, then, recently examined how much fluoride is present in the foods and beverages typically consumed by children in the Midwest who are aged 2 years. 

The researchers used total diet study food lists cross-referenced with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey—What We Eat in America. They also determined concentrations of fluoride via a modification of the hexamethyldisiloxane microdiffusion technique. Daily dietary fluoride intake was estimated using a simulation analysis.

The study, “Fluoride in the Diet of 2-Years-Old Children,” was published by Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. E. A. Martinez Mier, DDS, PhD, MSD, of the department of cariology at the Indiana University School of Dentistry shared her insights about the study’s results with Dentistry Today.

Q: What are the main sources of fluoride for children?

A: There are different fluoride sources depending on the age of the children. The relative contribution of these sources to the total amount of fluoride ingested in a day also varies according to the children’s age. Our study showed that the daily intake from the diet for 2-year-old children will depend on the foods typically consumed by each child based on his or her choice of foods and beverages.

Q: Specifically, what foods provide the most fluoride?

A: In our study, popsicles, mild cheddar cheese, raisins, saltine crackers, creamy peanut butter, beef cheese tacos, chicken/pork franks, and plain wavy potato chips were the items with the highest fluoride content. Previous reports have included fish, tea, and sardines as items with high fluoride content.

Q: What role does public water fluoridation play in children’s fluoride intake?

A: Water and swallowed toothpaste are the greatest sources of fluoride intake for children younger than 6 years. It is estimated that water and water-based beverages contribute to approximately 75% of the total fluoride consumed though the diet in communities that are optimally fluoridated. This should not place these children at risk for excessive consumption. At the currently recommended levels, community water fluoridation has been proven to be safe and effective.

Q: How can parents tell if their children are getting enough fluoride to prevent dental caries?

A: Children who live in communities where water is fluoridated are already receiving the benefits of fluoride. In addition, parents should ensure their children are brushing their teeth with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. They also should visit their dentist, who may recommend additional fluoride.

Q: What impact does too much fluoride have on developing teeth?

A: Too much fluoride consumed when teeth are developing may result in enamel fluorosis. No other negative health effects have been associated with the consumption of water fluoridated at the recommended levels.

Q: Is there anything parents can or should do to mitigate this impact?

A: Parents should supervise their children while brushing to prevent them from swallowing toothpaste. If they consume well water, they should have it tested to find out if it has too much fluoride.

Q: What role should dentists play in ensuring that children are getting the right amounts of fluoride to ensure oral health?

A: Dentists should continue to support community water fluoridation and assess their patients’ risk of developing caries in order to develop individualized fluoride recommendations.

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