Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that affects the teeth. It is caused by overexposure to fluoride during the critical first eight years of life when most permanent teeth are being formed. The clinical symptoms can range from lacy white markings that are barely perceptible to severe cases that greatly affect dental esthetics. Fluorosis can appear as:
- Stains ranging from yellow to dark brown
- Surface irregularities
- Pits that are highly noticeable
The History of Fluorosis
In the early 20th century, researchers discovered a high prevalence of "Colorado Brown Stain" on the teeth of native-born residents of Colorado Springs. The local water supply was high in fluoride content. In addition to brown stains there was another side effect of high resistance to dental cavities. This ushered in the movement for adding fluoride into public water supplies to prevent decay.
Fluorosis affects nearly one in every four Americans ages 6 to 49. It is most prevalent among 12-15 year olds. Only about 2% of cases are considered "moderate" and 1% "severe" with the rest being "mild". The prevalence of fluorosis is actually increasing.
The inappropriate use of fluoride-containing dental products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses is the major cause of fluorosis. Children sometimes swallow fluoridated toothpaste instead of spitting it out. Taking a higher-than-prescribed amount of a fluoride supplement during early childhood can cause this condition. When a child is receiving the appropriate amount of fluoride from drinking water or fortified drinks, taking fluoride supplements can lead to an unhealthy level of systemic fluoride. In communities where natural levels exceed 2 parts per million, the CDC recommends that parents give children water from other sources.
Since the 1930s, dentists have rated the severity of fluorosis using the following categories:
- Questionable: The enamel shows slight changes ranging from a few white flecks to occasional white spots.
- Very mild: Small opaque paper-white areas are scattered over less than 25% of the tooth surface.
- Mild: White opaque areas on the surface are more extensive but still affect less than 50% of the surface.
- Moderate: White opaque areas affect more than 50% of the enamel surface.
- Severe: All enamel surfaces are affected. The teeth also have pitting that may be discrete or may run together.
The appearance of teeth affected by moderate-to-severe fluorosis can be significantly improved by Marion Dental Group. Most techniques are aimed at masking the stains.
- Tooth whitening and other procedures to remove surface stains
- Bonding, which coats teeth with a tooth colored composite.
- Porcelain veneers
Parental monitoring is the key to prevention. If you rely on well water or bottled water, your public health department or local laboratory can analyze its fluoride content. Once you know how much fluoride your child is getting from drinking water and other sources, you can work with our dentists at Marion Dental Group to decide whether or not your child should have a fluoride supplement.
At home, keep fluoride-containing products out of reach from your children when not supervising. If a child ingests a large amount of fluoride in a short amount of time, it may cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain. Fluoride toxicity sends several hundred children to emergency rooms each year.
Only a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is enough for your children. Also teach your child to spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it. Avoiding flavorful toothpastes can help with keeping your kids from trying to consume too much.
If you want to learn more about preventing fluorosis or need treatment for you or your loved ones, please give us a call so we can provide the necessary help!