Dental fluorosis is the appearance of faint white lines or streaks on the teeth from over consumption of fluoride over long periods of time. It can only occur in children while their teeth are coming in, usually up to age eight. Once the teeth have broken through the gums, then children can no longer get fluorosis. Dental fluorosis only affects the look of teeth, not the function or health of teeth.
Ways to Prevent Fluorosis
Fluoride is important to prevent tooth decay, but the trick is to get just the right amount, not too little and not too much. Your dentist can help you determine the right amount of fluoride for your child. There are some things you can do as parents to help prevent fluorosis.
From Infant to Age 3
- Breast Feed Your Child - Breastfeeding is recommended for all infants (except for the few whom breastfeeding is determined as harmful). Breast milk is very low in fluoride and fluoride is not passed to the infant in large amounts.
- Use Fluoride-Free Water with Formula - If you are feeding your baby with formula, use fluoride-free water when mixing it.
- Use Ready-to-Feed Formula - This type of formula contains little fluoride and does not make a significant impact in the development of dental fluorosis.
- Brush Your Child's Gums and Teeth - When there are no teeth, wipe out your baby's mouth every day with a damp cloth. When their teeth start coming in, brush them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste but no more than a smear the size of a grain of rice.
From Ages 3 to 8
- Continue Brushing - Continue brushing your child's teeth twice a day using no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to keep an eye on your children while they are brushing to prevent them from swallowing toothpaste. Do not use fluoride mouth rinse for children under the age of 6 unless recommended by a dentist. Children 6 and younger haven't developed their swallow reflex yet and have a higher chance of swallowing mouth rinse.
- Test Your Water Levels - The U.S. Environmental Agency requires public water systems to notify customers if the public water fluoride levels go over 2.0 mg/L or parts per million. If the water does exceed fluoride levels of 2.0 mg/L, then consider a different water source or use at home water treatments to take the excess fluoride out. If you use a private well, it's recommended to get the water tested every year.