The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 6.6 to 15.2 percent of toddlers are iron deficient. Symptoms -- such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, decreased appetite and unusual food cravings or eating non-food items such as soil -- that are readily apparent in adults and older children are not always obvious in toddlers. Once your toddler has been diagnosed, her doctor will usually recommend treating the condition with iron supplement drops. However, iron supplement drops can stain your toddler’s teeth.
Iron supplement drops may stain your toddler’s teeth the same rusty, reddish-brown color as the drops themselves. You may notice the color change immediately, or it may develop over time since most toddlers take the drops for several months. Depending on how your toddler swallows the drops, she may exhibit stains over just a few of her teeth or throughout her mouth. Stains are usually mild but vary in intensity.
Prevent stains by diluting the prescribed dose in 2 to 3 oz. of juice or water. Do not use milk because this interferes with the absorption of the iron. Offer it to her in a sippy cup or -- if you feel she will tolerate it -- a cup with a straw. This minimizes the contact between the iron and the front teeth. Monitor your child to ensure that she finishes all of the liquid. If she does not, give the drops on their own and encourage her to swallow them rapidly. Encourage her to follow the drops with a few sips of juice or water without iron.
Encourage your toddler to brush her teeth at least twice a day, preferably after breakfast and before bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this to support oral health in general, and it also helps minimize the accumulation of stains from iron supplement drops. If stains still accumulate, have your toddler brush with baking soda instead of toothpaste once a week. As with toothpaste, she should not swallow the baking soda.
If iron supplement drops stain your toddler’s teeth, ask her doctor about alternatives, such as chewable forms of iron supplements. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an iron-rich diet for all toddlers. By offering her age-appropriate servings of lean meats, fish and beans, you can prevent her from becoming iron deficient in the first place and replenish her iron stores more quickly if she does become deficient. For maximum benefits, serve iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods, such as orange juice, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli or potatoes.
Stains often fade over time. In addition, your toddler’s teeth are not permanent. She will begin to acquire new, permanent teeth around the age of 6. Never use over-the-counter tooth-whitening strips, rinses or other products on your toddler, except as recommended by her doctor. These products are intended for adults, and they are not tested in children.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: AAP Offers Guidance to Boost Iron Levels in Children
- Medline Plus Supplements: Iron
- American Academy of Pediatrics: A Guide to Children's Oral Health
- "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 23rd Edition”; Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. et al.; 2008