You may have always wondered just why fluoride is so important - or even if it’s safe.
The simple truth is that exposing your teeth to a modest but consistent amount of fluoride throughout life helps strengthen the tooth enamel and protect against tooth decay.
For most people - such as older children and adults - fluoride is safe in moderate amounts, such as the amounts in toothpaste, tap water, and mouthwashes. But infants and children whose teeth have not yet emerged from their gums can develop a condition called enamel fluorosis if they are exposed to too much fluoride. Fluorosis appears as thin lines or streaks on the tooth enamel.
One way that infants may become over-exposed to fluoride is if they are fed powdered infant formula mixed with fluoridated water as their primary source of food during their first year of life. This may result in a very mild or mild case of enamel fluorosis, which is barely noticeable. Occasional use of formula mixed with tap water should not increase an infant’s fluorosis risk, but talk to your dentist and pediatrician if you have concerns. Breast milk contains very little fluoride, even if a breastfeeding mother drinks fluoridated water and uses fluoride toothpaste daily; so there’s no reason for a new mom to neglect her own oral health.
Enamel fluorosis affects the appearance of the teeth, but not their overall function. You can prevent your child from developing fluorosis by choosing a toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride. Once the teeth have fully emerged from the gums they are no longer at risk. But keep in mind that fluoride is not meant to be swallowed. Which is why some dentists recommend that very young children avoid fluoride toothpaste - they have not yet developed the reflexes to keep from swallowing it.