An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s how the saying goes at least. But, if the formula calls for an ounce of prevention, make sure you take an ounce and not a pound. More is not always better, and you can have too much of a good thing. That’s really an important guiding principle to keep in mind when trying to prevent those little white lines on teeth.
Those little white lines on the teeth are called fluorosis. It is definitely a prime example of a condition caused by too much of a good thing. If you are concerned about preventing fluorosis, it’s important to use the right amount of prevention and avoid going overboard to prevent the condition.
What Is It?
Dental fluorosis is a developmental disturbance of the enamel. In other words, fluorosis is a condition that occurs in the teeth during the early formation and growth of the teeth that negatively effects the enamel layer of the teeth. Mild fluorosis, by far the most common kind, often looks like faint white lines or streaks on the teeth. The white lines are dull, not shiny like the unaffected enamel. Sometimes they are so faint that they are only visible during a dental exam. Sometimes they are easier to spot.
How Much Does it Change Teeth?
The white streaks are more porous than surrounding enamel. In cases of mild fluorosis, the tooth continues to function normally. In fact, treatment for mild fluorosis focuses on cosmetic treatment—making the tooth look better and blending the white lines in with the rest of the tooth.
When Can Fluorosis Develop?
Fluorosis is a developmental condition (not a disease). So, it can only happen while the teeth are still developing. The greatest risk for developing those white lines is between about 2-3 years of age. Adults do not develop dental fluorosis for the first time; they can only have it if they have had it since childhood. So , if you are looking to prevent the white lines from developing, you are generally looking to prevent it in your children.
What to Do?
To avoid fluorosis, avoid taking in too much fluoride.
First, consider the water your children consume. Many communities add fluoride to drinking water. Some areas also have naturally occurring fluoride in the soil that passes into the water. If you have municipal water, you can find out how much fluoride is in your water by contacting your local water board for a water quality report. You can also check for general information at the CDC’s website about your community’s water program if your state participates in the CDC’s fluoride program. If you have well water, you will need to arrange to have your well tested privately.
If your drinking water is fluoridated to the recommended 0.7 mg/L, the water will likely help prevent fluorosis. If you find your water has 2mg/L of fluoride, you will want to use a different source of water with growing children to help avoid overexposure. It’s also important to check sports drinks, bottled water, and even some types of tea to make sure that they are not adding fluoride you were not aware of to your child’s diet.
Of course, drinking fluoride is not the only way children take fluoride into their systems. Most toothpastes and some mouthwashes contain fluoride. It is an important tool for preventing cavities. But, in small bodies, these amounts can add up quickly. It’s vital to teach children to spit out toothpaste and rinses so they don’t get too much fluoride. While children are learning, it may help to use a fluoride free toothpaste as a training toothpaste. Your doctor or dentist may recommend a fluoride supplement if your children don’t get fluoride in their drinking water. It’s important to take the fluoride exactly as directed—fluoride tablets are prescription for a reason.
Keeping a balanced diet also helps teeth develop correctly. In order for teeth to have enough minerals to build strong enamel, there have to be enough healthy minerals in the foods the child eats and drinks. Calcium also binds with fluoride, making the tooth enamel less likely to have too much fluoride bind to it.
Too much fluoride—a good thing in the right amount—can cause problems. By paying careful attention to the fluoride consumed by children can help keep those pesky white lines on the teeth from ever appearing.
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