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The Informed Parent

How Much Fluoride Is Enough?

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jul. 10, 2006

Last month we discussed the importance of fluoride in the prevention of dental caries in children. For the 40 percent of families in the United States who do not have adequately fluoridated water, liquid or tablet supplements are available. They are often packaged in vitamin preparations. This is a good source of fluoride to protect teeth, while promoting optimal dental health in the growing child.

The effect of excess fluoride intake, known as fluorosis, is the result of chronically ingesting more than twice the optimal amount. Fluorosis is a type of tooth enamel hypomineralization that appears as fine white lines in areas of tooth enamel. There can be a chalky or opaque appearance in extreme cases. Severely fluorosed teeth are highly porous and quickly absorb external stains, giving the teeth a brown appearance.

It is extremely important that you, as a parent, discuss all possible sources of fluoride supplementation with your child's pediatrician. In addition to liquid or tablet supplements, other fluoride sources may include bottled water, fluoride-containing toothpastes, rinses, and gels. Community standards for fluoride levels should also be known. This information will be taken into consideration by the pediatrician when recommending additional fluoride supplementation. Ask your child's pediatrician if you have any questions regarding fluoride protection for your child's teeth.

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