My dentist always tells me how important flouride is, but isn’t it bad for babies?
Fluoride? We might have actually heard of it in one of the TV commercials of some famous toothpaste brands. The idea that toothpaste with fluoride prevents tooth decay is relatively common. According to the article, “A Mom’s Guide to Fluoride”, written by Dr. Brittany Seymour of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, fluoride helps in the prevention of cavities, and millions of children in the U.S. and around the world have been spared from cavities because of the fluoride in tap water and toothpaste.
How Safe Is It For Babies?
Infants often start to have their first tooth at around 6 months of age. While parents often get too excited about their baby’s dental care, we need to be extra careful in weighing the good and the bad effects of fluoride-containing products for our baby’s teeth. Here are factors that need to be considered:
- Fluoride In Toothpastes
The Paediatrics Child Health journal suggests that as little as 1ppm of fluoride on the surface of the tooth can safely and effectively decrease the prevalence of tooth decay. On the other hand, ingested amounts contribute to a condition called dental fluorosis or the appearance of mottled, white-streaked teeth. It further explained that the ‘pea-sized’ amount which is recommended for children by common toothpaste brands will contain around 0.8 mg of fluoride for twice a day brushing. If swallowed, this amount could significantly contribute to the development of fluorosis.
The American Dental Association (ADA) also explained that dental fluorosis develops when the child has consumed high amounts of fluoride before the appearance of his/her tooth. However, if the teeth have completely erupted, the child would no longer be developing fluorosis.
- Fluoride In Food And Water
Did you know that fluoride is used to treat drinking water supply? It is also found in some bottled beverages, infant formula and dairy products. Babies might already be consuming small quantities of fluoride by the time they are introduced to various sources of food and drinks.
What Should Parents Do?
Since fluoride is something we cannot avoid, the key is to ensure that the dosage is kept to a minimum and safe amount. Here’s what we can do:
- Proper Tooth Brushing And Toothpaste Administration
ADA recommends that for children under three years of age, the ideal amount of toothpaste should not be more than a size of a grain of rice. This is to ensure that your child does not ingest too much fluoride that could affect the development of his/her teeth. Supervised tooth brushing twice a day is also advised to prevent tooth decay formation.
Breastfeeding is the safest and healthiest way to feed our young babies. Studies have shown that nursing moms don’t pass a significant amount of fluoride through the breast milk. Hence, breastfeeding ensures our infants will not be taking in too much fluoride in their system.
- Choice Of Water And Infant Formula
If breastfeeding isn’t possible, parents may opt to seek for ready-to-feed formula or powdered/liquid concentrate formula which has low levels of fluoride. As for the water incorporated in the infant’s milk, those labeled as purified, distilled, deionized or demineralized are good options. However, it is best to consult a pediatrician when selecting the appropriate water and infant formula for your baby.