What are the Pros and Cons of Fluoride?

Fluoride STRENGTHENS teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. Excessive fluoride taken by preschool-aged children can lead to dental fluorosis, which can lead to a chalky white or brown discoloration of permanent teeth. Being aware of a child’s potential sources of fluoride can help parents prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis. Some of these sources are:

  • Too much fluoridated toothpaste at an early age
  • The inappropriate use of fluoride supplements
  • Hidden sources of fluoride in the child’s diet

Two and three-year olds 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 risk factor in the development of fluorosis.

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 pediatric dentist.

Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially powdered 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. Blending the syrup, carbonation and the city water supply often makes soft drinks at fast food restaurants - so if fluoride is in the water - this is another source. Please take the following steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in your child’s teeth:

  1. Avoid giving fluoride-containing supplements to infants until they are six months old
  2. Place only a pea-sized drop of children’s toothpaste on the brush when brushing
  3. Be aware of all sources of ingested fluoride before requesting fluoride supplements
  4. Use baby tooth cleanser on the toothbrush with very young children
  5. Obtain fluoride level test results for your drinking water (check local water utilities)