Knowledge  Zone

Fluoride 

Fluoride is an element which has been shown to be beneficial for teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental. While fluoride can help strengthen your teeth and help resist cavities, excessive ingestion by pre school age children can lead to dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis presents itself as a chalky white to even brown discoloration on permanent teeth. Many children often get more fluoride than their parents realize. Being aware of a child’s exposure to fluoride can help parents prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis.

Some of these sources are:

     -Ingestion of fluoridated toothpaste

Young children may not be able to expectorate (spit out) fluoride-containing toothpaste when brushing. As a result, these youngsters may ingest an excessive amount of fluoride during tooth brushing. Toothpaste ingestion during this critical period of permanent tooth development is the greatest risk factor in the development of fluorosis.

     - Inappropriate use of fluoride supplements

Excessive and inappropriate intake of fluoride supplements may also contribute to fluorosis. Fluoride drops and tablets, as well as fluoride fortified vitamins should not be given to infants younger than six months of age. After that time, fluoride supplements should only be given to children after all of the sources of ingested fluoride have been accounted for and upon the recommendation of your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.

     -Hidden sources of fluoride in the child’s diet

Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially powdered concentrate infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Please read labels carefully or contact the manufacturers. Some beverages also contain high levels of fluoride, especially decaffeinated teas, white grape juices, and juice drinks manufactured in fluoridated cities.

Parents can take the following steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in their children’s teeth:

  • Use fluoride free training toothpaste for a very young child.

  • Place the appropriate amount of toothpaste when brushing.

  • Discuss all of the sources of ingested fluoride when considering fluoride supplements with your child’s physician or pediatric dentist.

  • Avoid giving any fluoride-containing supplements to infants until they are at least 6 months old.

  • Obtain fluoride level test results for your drinking water before giving fluoride supplements to your child (check with local water utilities).