Fluoride protects the teeth from cavities and decay. However, an excess of fluoride at a young age can stain teeth in children. This condition is known as Dental Fluorosis.
If you give your child too much fluoride, then they can develop white, yellow or brown streaks and spots.
Your child can get it when their teeth are developing under gums.
They will no longer develop it once their permanent teeth erupt.
However, these teeth will carry the stains.
Your child is at risk of developing it till they are 8 years old.
This article discusses how to identify fluorosis and how you can prevent it from happening on your child’s teeth.
What is Dental Fluorosis?
When your child is below 8, they need less fluoride exposure to prevent cavities than when they are older.
This is also the time whereby their permanent teeth start erupting.
So if your child gets exposed to high concentrations of fluoride then their teeth will appear stained.
There can be almost unnoticeable lacy white markings.
Parents can usually not identify them on their own rather only a dentist can point them out.
Though, there are levels of fluorosis.
There can be white spots, lacy marks, yellow and dark brown stains.
The surfaces of their teeth will be irregular and can contain pits.
The pits and surface irregularities are quite apparent and parents can detect them.
Fluorosis is highly prevalent.
In fact, you can find it in every 1 out of 4 Americans between 6 to 49 years of age.
It is especially common in children ages of 12 to 15 years old.
Though most of these cases are only a mild form of fluorosis and about 2 percent can be moderate while 1 percent are severe.
This first came into notice in the 20th century.
The Colorado Spring residents had something known as the “Colorado Brown stain” in about 90 percent of young children.
It turned out that their local water had a high amount of fluoride.
Even if they had stains, their teeth were highly resistant to cavities.
Therefore, this is the inception of including acceptable amounts of fluoride in public waters which can protect from tooth cavities but not cause fluorosis.
Types of Fluorosis
If your child does not have fluorosis then their teeth will appear glossy and creamy white in color.
However, if they do, then they can have varying levels or types.
Your dentist can best identify if your child has this oral condition.
- White spots and flecks are rather questionable. Your dentist can detect if it is fluorosis or just needs cleaning.
- White specks over 25 percent of the tooth indicate a very mild case.
- The tooth surface with a white area covering less than 50 percent of the enamel is mild.
- White areas covering more than 50 percent of the tooth’s surface are a moderate case.
- Pitting on teeth and all tooth enamel surfaces having white areas is severe.
Dental Fluorosis simply occurs because of excessive use of fluoride.
This can be present in the form of supplements, fluoridated toothpaste, fluoridated water and mouth rinses.
Children do not need as much fluoride as adults do.
Hence, the toothpaste for kids does not need to necessarily have fluoride.
You can protect their teeth by brushing and flossing regularly.
However, it can still protect them from cavities so make sure that they only get fluoride intake through toothpaste.
Though, do not let them swallow their toothpaste.
Children do not need mouthwashes especially if their water contains fluoride.
You should also ensure that you do not give them an overdose of fluoride supplements.
This can happen when your child takes supplements along with fluoridated water or juices.
The levels of fluoride in water should not exceed 2 parts per million.
This can cause severe fluorosis.
Hence, if your drinking water contains a greater amount of fluoride then it can lead to severe fluorosis.
Keep a check on how your child gets a good amount of fluoride through fluoride fortified- soft drinks, juices and water.
Dental Fluorosis Treatment
Very mild fluorosis can hardly be seen.
Moreover, it may only affect the backside of teeth which is not visible.
Though, moderate and severe stains are quite visible.
They do not affect your oral health.
In fact, teeth with these marks are actually more resistant to tooth decay.
However, they can impact your appearance and your self-confidence.
Therefore, you can get treatments to hide the stains or remove them especially if they are impacting your life as an adult.
You can get veneers on your teeth that will cover the stains of severe fluorosis.
These ceramic or plastic shells go over the front of the tooth giving it a normal appearance.
Similarly, dental crowns can go all over the tooth masking its stains.
Dental bonding can also help mask it by coating resin to the enamel fluorosis.
Teeth whitening can help remove the appearance of the stains however, it can also worsen that.
This is because the bleaching agent can temporarily worsen these tooth stains by fluorosis.
Did you know that you can also undergo microabrasion for treating fluorosis?
Well, now you do!
A calcium phosphate paste also known as the MI paste reduces the discoloration on teeth with the help of microabrasion.
Thus, all the treatments focus on masking or reducing the stains that exist.
However, discuss with your dentist if you should get teeth whitening because the bleaching gel can worsen rather than improve your teeth.
Therefore, the best way to deal with fluorosis is to actually prevent it.
You can prevent it in your kids from an early age so that they are spared embarrassment due to their teeth in the future.
As a parent, you will have to be vigilant about their fluoride intake.
Prevention for Children
Your water can be fluoridated.
So can juices and soft drinks that your child takes.
Therefore, you can work with your dentist to reduce the amount of fluoride your child takes.
If your child is younger than 3 years then you should do the following:
- Breastfeed them instead of Formula Milk
Mothers should breastfeed their children for at least the first 6 months.
Then they can continue breastfeeding alongside giving solid foods to kids till a year.
This also prevents fluorosis because infant formula mixed with fluoridated water can expose children to fluoride.
It may as well contain fluoride so consult your dentist about the best infant formula to give to your child.
Relying only on formula milk will make them more susceptible to fluorosis.
- Brushing Teeth and Flossing
You should clean your child’s gums even before they have any teeth.
Furthermore, as soon as their baby teeth erupt you should start cleaning them.
When two teeth touch, you can even start flossing between their teeth.
Though, while brushing teeth, make sure that you do not give them toothpaste more than a grain of rice.
It is better to choose toothpaste without fluoride for now or if the toothpaste contains fluoride, tell your child to spit it.
Do not let them swallow it.
You can prevent this by getting them a flavor that they may not like.
- Do not give them mouth rinses or supplements
Children that are this small, may not need fluoride supplements or mouth rinses unless your dentist recommends them for areas without fluoridated water.
In fact, ingesting that can also lead to fluoride toxicity.
Immediately go to the emergency room if your child shows signs of fluoride toxicity like nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain.
Though it is not anything serious, it is still better to be careful.
Prevention in Older Kids
The same precautionary measures are for children over 3 years of age.
They can get fluorosis till they are 8, hence, children between 3 to 8 years old still need prevention.
Therefore, parents need to keep their child’s dental hygiene on point.
Supervise them while they brushing and ensure that they are brushing twice a day.
Also, making brushing and flossing a daily habit that they perform with parents so that they cannot skip it.
Besides they should only raise from a grain of rice to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
When you brush and floss alongside them then you can supervise how well they are brushing.
Also, you can prevent them from swallowing the toothpaste.
Buy them a toothpaste flavor they are not particularly fond of.
This will encourage them to spit rather than swallow.
Though, children don’t develop their swallowing reflex before they are six.
Therefore, do not give children fluoride mouthwashes as they will likely swallow them.
In fact, they do not require mouthwashes this young, unless their dentist suggests.
Thus, you should only maintain good hygiene by regularly monitoring their brushing routine.
Furthermore, check if your drinking water contains fluoride within the limits set by CDC.
If it exceeds that, you should use bottled water.
However, if it remains within the right limits then it can protect your child from cavities.
Instead, you should check the fluoride quantity in the juices and sodas they drink.
All these ways can at least prevent dental fluorosis from worsening or even developing.
Dental fluorosis is a common condition in children and adults.
It is easily preventable but treating it can be a hassle.
Hence, monitor the amount of fluoride your child is taking to reduce it to safer limits for their teeth to remain healthy, white and strong.