Fluoride is a mineral essential for our teeth to make enamel stronger and more resistant to acids, helping to prevent tooth decay. However, absorbing too much fluoride can impair the development of the teeth on children ages 8 and below. Fluorosis can appear as white or brown streaks or patches on teeth. Fluorosis is only a cosmetic concern. it has no real impact on oral health and function.
How does fluorosis happen?
During the early years up to 8 years of age, the permanent teeth are forming or developing under the gums and are still yet to erupt. Overexposure to fluoride over a long period of time can affect the appearance of these developing teeth. Adults and children over 8 years old can no longer be affected by fluorosis since the permanent teeth are almost, if not fully developed by this time.
Ingesting fluoride toothpaste and taking more than the prescribed fluoride supplements can lead to fluorosis. The severity of fluorosis depends on the dose of fluoride, duration, and time. The higher the dose of fluoride absorbed or ingested, the longer the child has been ingesting too much fluoride, and the earlier the child has been exposed to too much fluoride, the more severe the effects.
Teeth discoloration is the only symptom of fluorosis. Discoloration depends on the severity of the condition. Very mild to mild cases are barely noticeable to the untrained eye. Only dentists can usually detect very mild to mild fluorosis.
- Very mild: white patches or streaks covering less than 25% of the tooth surface
- Mild: white patches or streaks covering less than 50% of the tooth surface
- Moderate: white and light brown patches and streaks covering less than 50% of the tooth surface
- Severe: White, light brown, and dark brown patches or streaks covering more than 50% of the tooth surface. Tiny pits or depressions may also be present
Fluorosis is only a cosmetic concern and does not need treatment. However, if this affects your self esteem, the following procedures may be done:
- Teeth Whitening: the bleach can whiten teeth to match the fluorosis stains. this is only effective on mild cases.
- Veneers: composite or porcelain veneers can mask the discolorations
- Crowns: same as veneers except it covers the whole tooth, rather than just the front surface
- Enameloplasty: removes a small amount of enamel to remove the fluorosis stains
Since ingestion is the cause, it is important to teach our children to spit and not swallow fluoridated products. It is also important to follow the prescribed amount of fluoride recommended for their age.