Fluoride is an element, which has been shown repeatedly in studies to be beneficial to teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to teeth. Little or no fluoride will not strengthen teeth to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion by pre-school aged children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a chalky white or even brown discoloration of developing permanent teeth. Many children get more fluoride than their parents are aware of. It is important to be aware of your child’s fluoride sources to prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis. Some of these sources are:

  • Too much fluoridated toothpaste at an early age.
    Two and three year old children may not be able to properly expectorate (spit out) fluoride-containing toothpaste when brushing. As a result, children 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.
  • The inappropriate use of fluoride supplements
    Excessive and inappropriate intake of fluoride supplements may also contribute to fluorosis.
    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 the label or contact the manufacturer. Some beverages also contain high levels of fluoride, especially decaffeinated teas, white grape juices, and juice drinks manufactured in fluoridated cities.

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

  • Use baby tooth cleanser on the toothbrush of very young children.
  • Place only a pea-sized drop of children’s toothpaste in the bristles of the brush when brushing.
  • Account for all of the sources of ingested fluoride before requesting fluoride supplements from your child’s pediatrician 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 your local water company).