Fluoride is a miraculous mineral that helps children develop strong teeth and prevent cavities. However too much fluoride exposure in childhood can result in dental fluorosis, a condition that causes white or brown streaks on the teeth.
Fluorosis occurs when individuals consume too much fluoride in early childhood. However, fluorosis is only a cosmetic concern and does not affect the health of the teeth.
Tips on Fluorosis Prevention
Fluorosis can only develop while the permanent teeth are maturing under the gums. Once the permanent teeth erupt, there is no risk of fluorosis developing. Exposing children to just the right amount of fluoride is essential to ensuring the permeant teeth are strong without experiencing fluorosis. Talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician to determine the right amount of fluoride for your child.
For children under 3 years old, make sure to only use a smear of toothpaste that is about the size of a grain of rice-sized every time you brush their teeth. Children ages 3-6 should use a pea-sized amount toothpaste.
It is essential to supervise your child once they start brushing their teeth by themselves to ensure your child doesn’t swallow toothpaste or mouthwash that contains fluoride. Fluoridated mouthwash is typically not recommended for children younger than age 6 because the swallowing reflexes are still developing.
Fluoride in Tap Water
Approximately 75% of public water sources are fluoridated with the ideal amount of fluoride to help teeth stay cavity-free. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires public water systems to let their customers know if fluoride levels exceed 2.0 mg/ L. Therefore, you should not worry about your tap water causing fluorosis. However, if you live in an area where the naturally occurring fluoride levels in drinking water exceed this level, you may consider consulting your child’s dentist on alternative water sources. For individuals who drink water from a private well, check fluoride levels annually to ensure the water is safe.
Dietary Fluoride Supplements
Dietary fluoride supplements are recommended for children ages six months to 16 years old living in an area without a fluoridated water source and have a high risk of cavities. Talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician if you live in a community without a fluoridated water source to see if a fluoride supplement would benefit your child.
Fluorosis is not inevitable and it can be prevented. Do not panic if your child’s permanent teeth erupt with signs of fluorosis. Fluorosis is only a cosmetic concern and does not negatively affect a child’s oral health. Consult your child’s dentist to learn more about fluorosis and how to prevent it.