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Fluoride is also known as “nature’s cavity fighter” and has been added to most community water systems. This mineral strengthens tooth enamel, rebuilds it, and can even reverse early stages of tooth decay. However, when fluoride is taken in excess in small children, it can cause fluorosis.

What Is Fluorosis?

This condition causes faint, white specks or streaks to appear on the teeth. It is purely a cosmetic issue; fluorosis does not affect the function and health of teeth. In fact, the white streaks are often so faint that usually a dental professional is the only one who can see them.

Fluorosis is caused when excess fluoride is ingested while permanent teeth are forming. This means it develops in children younger than eight years old. Teeth that have already erupted cannot get fluorosis.

Preventing Fluorosis

Though it isn’t a disease, you should still take steps to prevent it. For children younger than three, only brush their teeth with a grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. When they are three to six years old, this amount increases to the size of a pea. Make sure to supervise their brushing between these ages so you can make sure they spit the toothpaste out rather than swallow it.

Another way to prevent fluorosis concerns mixing fluoridated water with baby formula. If this is done frequently or all the time, it can cause a mild case of fluorosis to develop. Use bottled water sometimes, especially if the fluoride in your primary water source contains more than 2mg/L.

However, just because fluoride can cause fluorosis does not mean that you should take away all sources of it from your child. Fluoride is still very important in developing strong, healthy teeth. Consult your dentist if you have any concerns about fluoride and fluorosis.