Fluoride Action Network


The prevalence of dental fluorosis in Australia and the United States of America has increased in both optimally fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. This has been attributed to an increase in the fluoride level of food and beverages through processing with fluoridated water, inadvertent ingestion of fluoride toothpaste, and the inappropriate use of dietary supplements. A major source of fluoride in infancy is considered to be infant formula which has been implicated as a risk factor for fluorosis in a number of studies. In this study the fluoride content of the infant formulae commonly used in Australia was determined. The acid diffusible fluoride of each powdered formula was isolated by microdiffusion and measured using a fluoride ion-specific electrode. The fluoride content of milk-based formulae ranged from 0.23 to 3.71 micrograms F/g and for soy-based formulae from 1.08 to 2.86 micrograms F/g. When reconstituted, according to the manufacturer’s directions, with water not containing fluoride, the formulae ranged in fluoride content from 0.031 to 0.532 ppm, with the average fluoride content 0.240 ppm. Using average infant body masses and suggested volumes of formula consumption for infants 1-12 months of age, possible fluoride ingestion per kg body mass was estimated. None of the formulae, if reconstituted using water containing up to 0.1 ppm F, should provide a daily fluoride intake above the suggested threshold for fluorosis of 0.1 mg F/kg body mass. However, if reconstituted with water containing 1.0 ppm F they should all provide a daily fluoride intake of above the suggested threshold for fluorosis with intakes up to 2-3 times the recommended upper ‘optimal’ limit of 0.07 mg/kg body mass. Under these conditions the water used to reconstitute the formulae would provide 65-97 percent of the fluoride ingested. These figures are likely to be overestimates due to the intake of nutrients from other sources reducing formulae consumption and also due to the lower bioavailability of fluoride from milk-based formulae. Further, it is generally believed that the maturation stage of enamel formation is the critical period for fluorosis development by chronic, above-threshold fluoride exposure. The maturation stage for the anterior permanent teeth, however, is after the first twelve months of life where fluoride intake from infant formula consumption per kg body mass is highest. The level of fluoride in the commonly used Australian formulae would suggest that infant formula consumption alone is unlikely to be a risk factor for dental fluorosis in a non-fluoridated community, but could make a major contribution to an infant’s daily fluoride intake. However, prolonged consumption (beyond 12 months of age) of infant formula reconstituted with optimally-fluoridated water could result in excessive amounts of fluoride being ingested during enamel development of the anterior permanent teeth and therefore may be a risk factor for fluorosis of these teeth.