Dental Fluorosis Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Dental fluorosis is a known adverse effect of fluoride overuse. Enamel or dental fluorosis is a condition caused by 'excessive' intake of fluoride over an extended period of time.
Causes and Symptoms of Dental Fluorosis
Excessive intake of fluoride causes dental fluorosis by damaging the cells that form the enamel, called ameloblasts. Damage to these cells results in a mineralization disorder of the teeth, whereby the porosity of the sub-surface enamel is increased. Dental or Enamel fluorosis occurs only while the teeth are still developing under the gums, before their eruption.
Fluoride consumption can exceed the safe dose when a child drinks a lot of fluoride containing water in combination with other dietary fluoride sources (foods with high fluoride content), or by just swallowing fluoridated toothpaste. Contact your dentist for area specific advice.
The most common symptom of dental fluorosis is a chalk-like discoloration of teeth with white spots or lines on tooth enamel. In more severe cases the affected areas have a yellow or brown discoloration. In extreme forms, fluorosis may result in a pitted tooth surface.
Fluorosis is a cosmetic problem and not a dental disease. Teeth are strong and healthy, but the spots and stains left by fluorosis are permanent and may darken over time. Dental fluorosis can be cosmetically treated by a dentist by microabrasion or tooth bleaching.
Preventing Dental Fluorosis
Parents should take the necessary measures for preventing dental fluorosis on their children teeth :
- Powdered or liquid concentrate infant formula should be mixed with water that is fluoride-free or contains low levels of fluoride,
- Do not use fluoride toothpaste until the child is two years old unless advised to do so by a dentist,
- For children age two and older, place only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush at each brushing,
- Avoid kids toothpastes with flavors that may encourage swallowing,
- An adult should supervise the use of fluoride-containing dental products by children younger than six years old, and check that they do not swallow it.
Dental Fluorosis Treatment
The damage that dental fluorosis causes to the teeth enamel is permanent and not reversible. Related treatment is targeting in hiding the discoloration of the teeth. The dental fluorosis treatment options and cost depend on the severity of each case:
- Tooth whitening - only for mild fluorosis cases. The whitening is achieved by the abrasion of the outer layer of the enamel in order to remove surface stains.
In cases of severe dental fluorosis the tooth enamel usually becomes porous, and tooth whitening methods are not recommended as treatment. Dental fluorosis treatment for severe cases of fluorosis requires covering the affected teeth with restorations, such as :
- Teeth bonding. After etching the enamel, a composite resin (with a color matching the other teeth) is "glued" on to the exterior of the tooth.
- Porcelain veneers. Made out of porcelain, veneers form a ceramic shell over the surface of the tooth, covering the stains and discoloration caused by the dental fluorosis.
Tooth bonding and porcelain veneers are relatively expensive dental fluorosis treatments but they can provide excellent cosmetic results.