Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition of the teeth affecting individuals who have been overexposed to fluoride in their first eight years of childhood. It causes a whitish discoloration of the tooth enamel (outermost layer of the tooth). This often occurs during the development of the enamel in a young child.
In mild cases, it causes lacy white marks on the tooth. But in severe cases, it causes:
- Yellow to dark brown stains
- Irregularities on the tooth surface
- Noticeable pits
The Prevalence of Fluorosis
Fluorosis was first described in the early 20th century where it was known as the “Colorado Brown Stain” on the teeth of Colorado Springs native-born people. The stains were caused by the high fluoride levels in the local water supply.
25 percent of Americans aged 6 to 49 are affected by fluorosis, and it is most prevalent among those aged between 12 and 15. Most cases are mild while two percent are moderate, and less than one percent is severe. Though fluorosis is not a disease, it can produce psychologically distressing effects.
Causes of Fluorosis
A majority of the cases are caused by inappropriate use of dental products such as toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride. Children often enjoy the taste of fluoridated toothpaste so much until they decide to swallow it instead of spitting it out.
Other causes of fluorosis are: taking higher fluoride supplements than prescribed during childhood, and taking fluoride supplements when fluoro-fortified fruit juices and soft drinks already provide the required amounts of fluoride. Again, natural water contains fluoride. If the natural fluoride levels are higher in the drinking water, it may increase the risk of fluorosis.
CDC recommends parents to give children water from other sources in communities where natural fluoride levels are higher than two parts per million.
Symptoms of Fluorosis
Fluorosis causes a range of streaks or tiny white specks that may not be readily noticeable, to rough, pitted enamel and dark brown stains that are difficult to clean. Dentists have rated the severity of fluorosis and classify them as:
- Questionable —enamel shows slight changes with a few white specks or occasional white spots
- Very mild —opaque, paper-white portions scattered over less than a quarter of the tooth surface
- Mild —white, opaque areas that are extensive but affect less than a half of the tooth
- Moderate—opaque, white areas that cover more than 50 percent of the enamel surface
- Severe—the whole surface of the enamel is affected, and the tooth also has discrete pitting
Most fluorosis cases are mild, and no treatment is needed, or it may affect parts of the teeth where it is not visible. However, moderate to severe cases can be significantly improved by several techniques. These include:
- Tooth whitening and other methods from Advanced Family Dental Care LLC to remove stains from the tooth surface
- Bonding—this coats the tooth with a hard resin material that bonds to the enamel
- Veneers—this is a custom shell on the front of the tooth that helps to enhance its appearance
There are several ways that fluorosis can be prevented.
- Parents should supervise their children while they are brushing their teeth
- Use the correct strength of toothpaste depending on a child’s age
- Use a little amount of toothpaste (pea-sized)
- Keep toothpaste and mouthwash away from the reach of children
- Children under the age of six should not use fluoride toothpaste
- Fluoride supplements should be taken in amounts prescribed by a dentist
Fluorosis is a condition that can affect any child under the age of eight. Therefore, children should not be exposed to excessively fluoridated water, or inappropriate use of dental products. Visit your dentist regularly in order to be educated on how to take care of the dental hygiene of your young ones. If they already are affected, your dentist can perform a tooth whitening procedure or another form of treatment depending on the condition of the teeth.