3 Steps to Prevent Fluorosis
Why Fluorosis Happens
Fluoride is an important component of your child’s enamel, or the protective coating that keeps plaque-causing bacteria at bay. When your child’s adult teeth are forming underneath his gums, typically under the ages of 6 to 8, exposure to too much fluoride can cause changes to the enamel. When your child’s adult teeth start to come in, you may notice whitish spots or areas on the edges of his teeth or even uneven areas of enamel on the teeth. If you observe these, make an appointment with your child’s dentist. Because fluorosis is just one of many reasons why these discolorations happen, the first step is to get a confirmed diagnosis.
Since fluorosis has to do with fluoride exposure, this makes the condition a preventable one. Partner with your child’s dentist to prevent fluorosis, and you can give your child a beautiful start to dental health.
Step 1: Check Out Your Water
Since your dentist is familiar with fluorosis, chances are she will be a good place to start to find out about the fluoride water quality in your area. Fluoride is commonly added to water supplies to help strengthen teeth. Since fluorosis is only a concern to children whose adult teeth have not yet come in, fluoridated water is a great thing for a lifetime of good dental health. The American Dental Association recommends cities add 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million of fluoride to water to benefit dental health. Your dentist or local water company may be able to tell you just how fluoridated your water is. If your water is from a well system, your dentist may recommend testing because well water tends to have higher mineral levels, including fluoride, than its filtered counterparts.
If your dentist considers the fluoride levels to be high, talk to him about the steps you can take to minimize fluoride levels. From switching to non-fluoridated bottled water for your little one to using a filter that takes out excess fluoride, these can be temporary options until your child’s permanent teeth come in and fluoride becomes more of an advantage for cavity prevention.
Step 2: Watch How Your Child Brushes
As your child learns the proper way to brush his or her teeth, you may run into a few roadblocks, namely the likelihood your child will try to swallow the toothpaste instead of spitting it out. Children under age 2 are especially likely to do this, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Watch your child brush to ensure that the toothpaste is going into the sink because swallowing the toothpaste can put too much fluoride into your child’s body. One way to reduce temptation is by refraining from purchasing a toothpaste that has a real-food flavor, such as watermelon or apple. These flavors are tempting to swallow for a child.
Another key is to ensure your child uses only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Your child’s gums and teeth don’t require a larger amount than this, and this amount is not so large that accidentally swallowing it would be harmful to your child.
Step 3: Talk to Your Dentist about Fluoride
Although fluoride can contribute to fluorosis in children, it likely should not be avoided entirely. Fluoride has a place in helping to prevent cavities in children. Talk to your child’s dentist about striking the right balance or if your child needs more fluoride due to a family history of tooth decay concerns. After your child’s adult teeth come in, fluorosis typically is no longer a concern and your child’s dentist will use fluoride treatments to strengthen her teeth as she gets older.