Managing Wellness

Fluoride Supplements: Who Needs Them?

Some kids may benefit from oral fluoride supplements.
Posted by October 13, 2016

Did you know that oral fluoride supplements—such as lozenges, tablets and drops—are recommended for cavity prevention for certain population groups? Some people do not ingest enough fluoride to keep their teeth cavity-free, but consuming too much fluoride can also damage your teeth. So knowing who should take oral fluoride supplements—and the correct dosage—is a must.

Who Should Use Supplements?

Fluoride is a natural mineral that can slow or even reverse tooth decay. Getting too little fluoride can lead to weak bones and teeth and increases the risk of developing cavities—especially in children. Fluoride supplements are available by prescription only and are beneficial for children who aren’t ingesting enough fluoride in their water supply and diet. According to the American Dental Association, children aged 6 months to 16 years who aren’t drinking fluoridated water and have a high risk for tooth decay can reap crucial benefits from oral fluoride supplements.

Dietary Fluoride Sources

Fluoridated water is one of the most common sources of dietary fluoride for kids and adults. City water (tap water) often has fluoride added to it, but well water usually does not. While some bottled waters contain fluoride, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that many do not, or only provide very small amounts. Tea, gelatin and seafood are also sources of dietary fluoride, according to MedlinePlus. Eating foods cooked with fluoridated water is another way to ingest fluoride and protect your teeth. Keep in mind that young children using fluoride toothpaste ingest fluoride if they accidentally swallow small amounts of toothpaste.

Which Dosage Is Recommended?

Your dentist will help determine the appropriate dosage (if any) of fluoride drops, lozenges or tablets for your child. The recommendation will depend on how much fluoride he or she gets from drinking water. The American Dental Association provides the following guidelines for fluoride supplementation for children who are not getting enough dietary fluoride:

  • Birth to 6 months: none.
  • 6 months to 3 years: up to 0.25 milligrams daily.
  • 3 to 6 years: 0.25 to 0.50 milligrams daily.
  • 6 to 16 years: 0.50 to 1 milligrams daily.

If you’re unsure about the fluoride level in your child’s drinking water, have your water tested to find out. Keep in mind that he or she may already be getting fluoridated water at school or day care.

Who Should Avoid Fluoride Supplements?

Fluoride supplementation isn’t for everybody. In fact, getting too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which causes staining, white spots and pitting in permanent adult teeth. Oral fluoride supplement guidelines don’t exist for adults because adult teeth are already fully formed, though the CDC notes that more research is needed in this area. Children and teens who get fluoride in their water or food supply generally shouldn’t take supplements. Always check with your dentist if you’re unsure.

The Bottom Line

Children aged 6 months to 16 years may benefit from taking oral fluoride supplements if they aren’t drinking fluoridated water, but always check with your dentist.

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