Formula, Fluoride and Fluorosis
Everyone agrees that the best source of nutrition for an infant is breast milk. The next best thing? Infant formula. However, despite its nutritional value, some types of infant formula have the potential to foster a condition known as dental fluorosis that involves changes in the appearance of the tooth’s surface. The tooth enamel is degraded due to an overexposure to fluoride before teeth erupt. Generally, fluorosis is not noticeable; it usually shows up as little white spots that are visible only to dental professionals. In its most severe form, fluorosis can cause brown stains on the permanent teeth.
Formula comes in three formulations: powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed. Major infant formula brands have very little if any fluoride. The problem is not with the formula—it is with the water used to mix the formula. Because fluoride helps prevent tooth decay in the general population, approximately 72% of all public water systems in the United States adjust the fluoride levels in the water to obtain the optimal dose for everyone age eight and older. But that means that if you are mixing powdered or concentrated formula with tap water, you will increase the fluoride in the formula to a level that may be too high for infants. Because formula can be the primary source of an infant’s nutrition, it is easy to see how this can contribute to the onset of fluorosis.
There are two easy ways to remedy this, but they take a concentrated effort by the parent. Use ready-made formula—that’s the best option because you won’t be adding any additional fluoride to your child’s diet. However, if you do use a powdered or concentrated formula, use bottled water labeled demineralized, distilled, purified or de-ionized to reconstitute or dilute the formula. That will reduce the level of fluoride your infant is being exposed to and help secure the development of his or her esthetically pleasing smile.
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