Toddler teeth are adorable. They come in all shapes and sizes to create the most genuine smiles, and without a lifetime of coffee, tea and red wine, you'd think their teeth would be perfectly white. Sometimes they are, but sometimes toddlers have these random white spots on their teeth. While you may worry about them from an aesthetic viewpoint (because they are really noticeable when you're Instagramming), you might wonder if it has something to do with their health, too. So what do white spots on a toddler's teeth mean?
The American Dental Association (ADA) explained that dental fluorosis occurs when too much fluoride is consumed over long periods of time while the teeth are still under the gums. Once they have broken through the gums, teeth can't be affected by the fluoride anymore. Reassuringly, these white spots don't make teeth weaker. "Fluorosis isn’t a disease and doesn’t affect the health of your teeth. In most cases, the effect is so subtle that only a dentist would notice it during an examination," the ADA explained. In fact, fluorosis may make teeth more resistant to tooth decay.
So it's not that fluoride isn't good for you child's teeth. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (also called tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults." The CDC said that putting fluoride in the water is recommended by the ADA, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization, and the United States Public Health Organization — It's basically the who's who of health recommendations, so it can't be a bad thing overall. You just need to be careful that your young child isn't getting too much... or too little.
If you aren't sure if your town or city is putting fluoride into your water, call them up and ask.
There are a few steps you can take to avoid dental fluorosis. Dr. Ken Feuerstein, a pediatrician in New York, suggests "brushing" with some water and a washcloth when the teeth are first coming in. As more teeth come in, buy a soft rubber thimble, put on a dab of non-fluoridated toothpaste, and rub your child's teeth. Dr. Feuerstein recommends avoiding toothpaste with fluoride until age 2. You may need to read the labels very carefully, but there are several brands on the market. Look for the ones labeled "fluoride-free".
The AAP also recommended that parents breastfeed their babies as breastmilk is very low in fluoride. Nursing mothers who drink fluoridated water do not pass the fluoride on in any significant amount, according to the ADA website. If you choose to use formula, either use ready-to-feed formula or avoid using water with fluoride when mixing with powder.
Don't start using fluoride toothpaste until you are sure your little one can spit it out after brushing. Similarly, don't use fluoride mouth rinses, even the cute ones marketed to kids, until they are at least six.
In most cases, you can barely see the white spots on your child's teeth, so it doesn't make sense to treat it. And as they get older, they will start to lose their baby teeth, and they will be replaced with adult teeth, which hopefully have not been affected. If you do find that their adult teeth are affected, there are vanity procedures that can be done such as whitening or even getting veneers to cover the stains, explained Dental Care Matters.
As disconcerting as this might be, you can relax knowing that their dental health is not at risk. Plus, odds are good the kids won't even notice the white stains and their smiles will still be lighting up their faces.
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