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Dental fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that causes changes to the tooth's surface. It can occur in children who consume too much fluoride during the first 8 years of life when permanent teeth are developing.
Dental fluorosis is a cosmetic concern, not an oral health issue. Most cases of dental fluorosis in the U.S. are mild, causing barely noticeable white spots on the tooth enamel that don’t affect dental function.
Moderate and severe forms of dental fluorosis are far less common. In these cases, there may be more significant changes to the tooth surface.
Severe dental fluorosis cases rarely occur in communities where fluoride levels in the local water are less than two milligrams per liter.1
Discoloration of the tooth surface is the only symptom of dental fluorosis. Unaffected teeth are typically pale white with a smooth, glossy sheen.
There are different categories of fluorosis based on the severity of discoloration:
Most times, mild changes aren’t noticeable to anyone besides your child’s dental professional.
High fluoride levels can cause teeth to be discolored when they grow in. Teeth that have already erupted cannot get fluorosis.
A child’s teeth with mild fluorosis may have:
The severe form of dental fluorosis is rare. A child with moderate or severe fluorosis may have:
Dental fluorosis is caused by excessive fluoride consumption over a long period while teeth form beneath the gums. It only affects children younger than 8 years old.
Children older than eight years of age, adolescents, and adults cannot get dental fluorosis.
The severity of fluorosis depends on:
Fluorosis may occur when children consume the following:
The best way to reduce your child’s risk for fluorosis is to pay attention to their levels of fluoride exposure. Your child needs the proper amount of fluoride while their teeth develop, but too much can cause fluorosis. There are several steps you can take:
If you have young children, it’s essential to know the fluoride concentration in your primary drinking water source. Depending on where your water comes from, there are various ways to do that:
Make sure they spit out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it. Use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children ages 3 to 6. For children under 3, the amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be no larger than a grain of rice.
If your child uses fluoride supplements or other products, keep them out of reach. Ingesting a large dose of fluoride in a short time can cause fluoride toxicity.
Symptoms of fluoride toxicity include:
This condition usually isn’t serious, but it sends hundreds of children to emergency rooms every year.
If your child shows signs of fluorosis, your dentist can diagnose it during a dental exam. Routine exams every six months can help ensure your child has healthy teeth.
Talk to your dentist about fluoride levels in your drinking water and other beverages. This information helps determine whether your child needs fluoride supplements.
Fluorosis doesn’t go away with regular brushing and flossing. If you’re concerned about fluorosis, several cosmetic dental treatments are available:
Enamel microabrasion treats white spots on teeth with dental fluorosis. A dentist removes a small amount of enamel from the teeth during this treatment. This procedure may reduce the appearance of white spots.
This treatment is often followed by teeth whitening to blend the color variations of the tooth.
Teeth bleaching or whitening reduces the look of white spots and other stains on teeth affected by dental fluorosis.
There are over-the-counter (OTC) options that you can buy, including whitening strips and special toothpaste. You can also purchase these products online.
Dentists can also perform professional teeth whitening treatments for better results. These treatments often use more potent bleaching formulas than those available OTC.
Veneers are thin, custom-made shells. They adhere to the front of your teeth after removing a layer of enamel.
Dental veneers are available in porcelain or composite resin and custom-made to match your natural teeth in shape and color. This makes them a great option for stains that don’t respond to whitening.
Like veneers, crowns are custom-made and colored. But whereas veneers cover the front surfaces of your teeth, a crown fits over the entire tooth. Your dentist has to remove some of the enamel to allow the crown to fit properly.
Dental bonding uses tooth-colored composite resin material to cover stains. Then, your dentist smooths and shapes your teeth for a natural appearance.
Fluorosis isn’t harmful to your oral health or overall health. It’s considered a cosmetic issue and doesn’t require treatment. Most cases of fluorosis are so mild they’re hardly noticeable.
However, if you’re concerned about how fluorosis stains affect your appearance, cosmetic dentistry treatments can help.
Dental fluorosis can occur when children consume excessive fluoride over a period of time while their teeth are developing under the gumline. The most common form of fluorosis is mild and looks like opaque white spots on the tooth enamel.
High fluoride levels in drinking water can increase your child’s risk for fluorosis. Children over age 8, teens, and adults cannot get fluorosis. It’s important to check or test the fluoride levels in your drinking water every year. Talk to your dentist about the fluoride content of your water so they can determine if a supplement is needed.
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