In the average family dentist’s office, you’ll hear the phrase “fluoride treatment” regularly. Why? Fluoride has been used to help protect teeth from tooth decay for over 120 years! But while these treatments have evolved significantly over that time, it is still understandable that parents want to fully understand a treatment before agreeing to get it done for their child. 

So what does this naturally-occurring mineral do for teeth? And just how safe is it for children? The Rhoades Dentistry team has the answers you need. 

Why is Fluoride Important? 

Fluoride is a mineral that helps to protect teeth from decaying. Flouride fights off the types of bacteria that can turn into plaque, which means fluoride treatments can help significantly improve long-term oral health. Fluoride can also preserve and strengthen the enamel of your teeth, helping keep them stronger and healthier for longer. 

Fluoride treatments are most important when teeth are still developing. This means children should receive at least two fluoride treatments per year – and can start using fluoride toothpaste as early as age three. Many communities have added fluoride to their drinking water; research has shown that this water fluoridation helps to prevent tooth decay by nearly 25% in both adults and children! 

What is a Fluoride Treatment? 

Even if your child is using fluoride toothpaste at home and drinking fluoridated water, dentists may suggest adding a dental fluoride treatment into the mix. There are multiple in-office versions of these treatments

  • Fluoride mouth rinse: These liquid solutions are easy to use, as all you have to do is swish them around in your mouth once or a day, or as directed by your dentist. This is a similar concept to a mouthwash, but with significantly more fluoride included, which is why you’ll need to purchase them from your dentist directly. 
  • Fluoride gel: This fluoride treatment option is applied in the dental office and left to sit on your teeth for a period of time, following up by a quick rinse with water. Similarly, there is fluoride foam that is used in the same way. 
  • Fluoride supplements: Similar to a daily vitamin supplement, fluoride supplements can be chewable tablets or lozenges. There is also a liquid version, which you swish around in your mouth like the rinse, but you swallow instead of spitting it out. 
  • Fluoride varnish: This fluoride treatment is another in-office option. The dental professional will brush the fluoride onto your teeth. With this treatment, no rinsing is needed; the fluoride will remain on your teeth until it is absorbed and any remains are brushed off after several hours. Your dentist will advise if you need to wait a period of time before eating or drinking after having a fluoride varnish applied. 

With all of these options, there’s one key detail to keep in mind: Follow your dentist’s directions to ensure that you aren’t using too much fluoride. 

Is Fluoride Safe for Children? 

Yes! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children begin receiving fluoride treatments as soon as their teeth begin to appear, which is usually around six months of age. 

Fluoride treatments are not only safe for children, but they’re important. Fluoride is most critical when teeth are still developing. As a result, children should receive at least two fluoride treatments per year to help protect them from tooth decay, and to make sure their teeth grow strong and healthy. Depending on a child’s risk level for developing cavities in future years, a dental professional may recommend fluoride treatments every three months, but that happens on a case-by-case basis. 

The most popular fluoride treatment for children is the fluoride varnish because it only requires that they sit still enough for the varnish to be brushed onto their teeth. There’s no rinsing or chewing involved, so it tends to be the go-to option for children. 

How Can I Make At-Home Fluoride Safer for My Child? 

During a fluoride varnish treatment, the fluoride hardens very quickly so a child won’t be able to swallow much of it at all. When using a fluoride toothpaste at home, however, the expectations are similar to those of any other toothpaste: We don’t want children to swallow very much of it. 

When brushing with fluoride toothpaste, remember that children under the age of three only need enough toothpaste to match the size of a grain of rice. Children ages three to six can use as much as a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. As is the case with any oral care, we encourage parents to supervise their child’s brushing routine to help build healthy habits. 


It’s common for children to be nervous about the dentist’s office, as they worry that they may experience pain or discomfort. But the experienced and kind professionals at Rhoades DDS are here to make sure that each child’s dental appointment is stress-free. Connect with our team today to get your child’s fluoride treatment scheduled!