Last week, we talked about what fluoride is, how it works, and where it is found. Now, it is important to discuss why there is such a thing as too much fluoride. In fact, ingesting too much fluoride can lead to a condition called fluorosis in children.
Fluorosis is caused by overexposure to fluoride or too much fluoride being consumed during the years that teeth are developing inside the jawbone, especially during the first eight years of life. As a result, this condition affects children whose permanent teeth are developing. While the main cause is too much fluoride, this can be caused by a combination of too much fluoride from a variety of sources such as swallowing toothpaste, drinking too much water with fluoride in it, or even taking the fluoride supplements prescribed by a dentist.
When fluorosis occurs, you will notice structural or aesthetic defects with the teeth. At first, the teeth may appear discolored and be a lacy white color. At this point, it may be so slight that only a dentist would detect it. As it gets worse, the teeth can become stained a yellow to brown color, and the surface will become irregular. Some describe it as the teeth looking as though they are erupting or mottled.
As discussed in last weeks post, fluoride is in may more substances than most people know. From baby formula and tap water to juice, processed cereal, and seafood. Being aware of the different ways children can be exposed to fluoride is the number one most important way to reduce the risk of fluorosis.
Second, your dentist is an extremely important resource and guide. As a specialist, they will know the proper amount of fluoride that children should be exposed to, and they should be aware of what the local fluoride concentrations are in your area. As a result, they can give advice and recommendations on whether or not you need to increase or decrease fluoride consumption and how to do this.
Finally, fluoride can be harmful to anyone in large doses in the same way any other medication would be. The amount in which you would need to consume in order for it to be toxic is based on weight, but in general, excessive amounts are toxic. This normally would only be an issue if someone consumed more than the prescribed amount of medication.
Fluoride found in food and water is in such as small amount that it is highly unlikely you could consume enough in one period for it to be toxic. The FDA and other regulatory bodies also limit the amount of fluoride in things as common as toothpaste. However, if you have any questions or want to discuss proper levels of fluoride exposure, be sure to contact your dentist.