PORTSMOUTH — Recent studies in a report issued by the National Research Council, called “Fluoride in Drinking Water,” indicates that the teeth of infants who receive too much fluoride could be susceptible to staining and discoloration in their later years.
Fluoride is added to toothpaste and drinking water because of its ability to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. But the American Dental Association said infants may be receiving too much through liquid or powdered baby formula because it is made with water containing fluoride. An excess of fluoride cases a condition called enamel fluorosis, which is a disruption in tooth enamel resulting in faint white lines or streaks on adult teeth.
“When you take fluoride, whether in community water or prescription, it gets to developing permanent teeth and makes them harder as they form,” said pediatric dentist Debra Filocoma of Portsmouth Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics. “But too much can actually stain your teeth if you are young.”
She said the damage in tooth development can occur between the ages of 6 months to 5 years, when a child’s permanent teeth have not come through their gums.
While breast milk or ready-to-feed formula is preferred to help ensure infants do not receive too much fluoride and to reduce their chances of enamel fluorosis, the ADA said if liquid concentrate or powdered infant formula is the primary source of nutrition, it can be mixed with water that is fluoride free or contains low levels of fluoride to prevent the condition.
City Engineer for Portsmouth Water/Sewer Divisions Peter Rice said that while Portsmouth drinking water is fluorinated, the city is aware that too much can cause enamel discoloration. Rice said the city’s water is dosed at levels that have been proven beneficial in reducing tooth decay and are closely regulated.
Aquarion Water Company, the public water supply for homes and businesses in the towns of Hampton, North Hampton and Rye, does not add fluoride to the water. Adam Torrey, operations supervisor, said the water contains a low, naturally occurring amount of fluoride that is well below the recommended level.
Torrey said the fluoride level is tested each year and is included in the company’s water quality report provided to customers.