Fluorosis is caused when the teeth are overexposed to fluoride during a child’s first 8 years of life. At this point their permanent teeth are still being formed. It is a purely cosmetic condition and after the adult teeth erupt, any that are affected by fluorosis may appear to have white almost lacy flecks on them while more severe cases may have stained teeth that can be yellow or brown colored or the surface of the teeth can have become pitted.
What Is the Main Cause of Fluorosis?
Fluorosis is more likely to develop when fluoridated products have been inappropriately used, for example if a child swallows an excess amount of fluoridated toothpaste or mouth rinse as sometimes these items can taste quite nice. However fluorosis can also be caused if a child has been taking a fluoride supplement during their early years, particularly when they may already be having fluoridated drinking water and perhaps are also having fluoridated fruit juice which on their own would provide the correct amount of fluoride. Fluoride is added to drinking water where necessary but the amounts contained are extremely carefully controlled and a child would be extremely unlikely to develop fluorosis just from drinking fluoridated water from the public water supply.
Dental Fluorosis Treatment
Often a case of fluorosis will be so mild that any treatment is unnecessary or otherwise it may only affect the back teeth where it cannot be seen. For a child that has a more visible case of fluorosis, there are several different treatments that can help which will mask the stains. These include teeth whitening when they reach an appropriate age, although initially this treatment may seem to worsen the appearance of fluorosis. Orthodontic bonding can also help, where the surface of the teeth affected is covered with tooth colored composite resin that will bound to the tooth enamel. Otherwise affected teeth can be hidden with veneers that are custom fitted porcelain shells that fit over the front surfaces of the tooth or a tooth can be covered up completely with a porcelain crown. Sometimes a dentist will be able to lightly abrade the surface of a tooth using a special paste which can help minimize the discoloration.
Reducing the Risk of Developing Fluorosis
You’ll find our pediatric dentists can talk to you about the use of fluoridated dental products and fluoride in your child’s diet to help minimize the risk of this condition developing. We may suggest not using fluoridated toothpaste until your child is old enough to spit out the excess and it can be useful to keep any dental products containing fluoride and which have an appealing taste well out of reach from small hands.
It’s important to emphasize that this condition isn’t serious and that the benefits of fluoride can be considerable. The right amount of fluoride is great for helping to strengthen young teeth, protecting them from cavities. If necessary, we may recommend your child has additional fluoride treatments to help harden their teeth. These treatments are applied topically and will not increase the risk of fluorosis.