What is Fluorosis – How to Prevent and Treat It

What is Fluorosis

Fluoride protects our teeth, but too much exposure to fluoride could cause a condition known as fluorosis. Fluorosis is a mild change in the appearance of the teeth, usually characterized by faint white marks on the teeth. Fluorosis doesn’t cause pain or affect the function of the teeth. The condition occurs due to excessive exposure to fluoride before the age of 8 years, when most permanent teeth are forming.

Fluorosis is not a disease and does not affect the health of your teeth. In most cases, the symptoms of fluorosis are so minor that only a doctor can notice them during a dental examination. This dental condition has no effect on tooth function and might even protect your teeth against tooth decay. Let’s dig into this topic with our Molson Park Family dentist in Barrie.

The Symptoms of Fluorosis

What are the symptoms of fluorosis? If a child’s teeth are affected by fluorosis, they may appear slightly discoloured. In mild cases of fluorosis, the teeth may contain lacy white markings that only a dentist can detect. However, in severe cases of fluorosis, the teeth can have surface irregularities, stains that could range from yellow to dark brown, and highly noticeable pits.

What Causes Fluorosis?

Inappropriate use of dental products that contain fluoride is the leading cause of fluorosis in children. These products include mouthwash and toothpaste. Some children love the taste of fluoridated toothpaste; when brushing, they often swallow it instead of spitting it out. The other causes of fluorosis include an overdose of fluoride supplements in early childhood. A fluoride overdose may result when a child takes fluoride supplements when they are already getting sufficient fluoride from the water they drink or fluoride-fortified juices.

Fluoride is present in drinking water; consuming water whose fluoride levels exceed the recommended range could result in fluorosis. If you live in an area where the natural fluoride levels are more than two parts per million, you should seek an alternative source of drinking water for your children.

Types of Fluorosis – What is the Problem with Fluorosis?

Fluorosis could range from mild to severe. Mild fluorosis is characterized by tiny white streaks or specks on the teeth, while severe fluorosis is characterized by mottled teeth or dark brown spots on the teeth. Teeth that haven’t been affected by fluorosis are pale creamy, white and feel smooth and flossy. You should contact a dentist if you notice mottling of teeth in your child or if your child has one or more discoloured teeth.

Dentists rate the severity of fluorosis using the following categories:

  • Questionable
  • Very mild
  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe

For very mild fluorosis, your child may have paper-white areas that spread over 25% of the tooth surface. For mild fluorosis, the teeth have white areas that cover less than 50% of the tooth surface. Your child has moderate fluorosis if the white opaque areas affect more than 50% of the teeth surface. If the tooth has severe fluorosis, the entire tooth surface may be affected, and the teeth may also have pitting.

How to Prevent Fluorosis

Children are at risk of developing fluorosis until around the age of 8 years, when the teeth are still forming beneath the gums. The best way to prevent fluorosis is to ensure that your child is getting the right amount of fluoride: it should not be too much or too little. Your physician or dentist can help you to determine the ideal amount of fluoride for your child. Here are ways that you can prevent fluorosis in your child:

Between Infancy and 3 Years

Some of the practices you can adopt to avert fluorosis in your child include:

  • Breastfeeding your child: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should breastfeed your child exclusively until they are six months. Even when you add solid foods, you should continue breastfeeding until the child is at least twelve months old.
  • Should you feed your child exclusively on infant formula, be sure to contact your doctor regarding the best type of formula that will not increase the risk of your child developing fluorosis.
  • Using age-appropriate dental products, brush your child’s teeth from when they first appear, preferably twice a day (morning and night).
  • If your child can brush their teeth on their own, ensure that you supervise them when they brush to ensure they use the right amount of toothpaste. Children should only use a small amount of toothpaste, typically not more than a grain of rice.

Between 3 and 8 Years

Between 3 and 8 years, here is what you can do to protect your child’s teeth:

  • Ensure that your child brushes their teeth at least twice daily or as directed by the physician.
  • Only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for the children.
  • You can prevent fluorosis by ensuring that your child doesn’t swallow toothpaste or other dental products while brushing. Supervise your children as they brush to ensure that they do not swallow toothpaste. You should avoid using toothpaste with pleasant flavours that your child might be tempted to ingest.
  • Avoid using mouth rinses for children under six years unless the dentist recommends it. According to the American Dental Association, children below six years haven’t fully perfected their swallowing reflexes. Therefore, they might end up swallowing the mouth rinse instead of spitting it out.

Be Careful with Fluoride Supplements

Avoid purchasing over-the-counter fluoride supplements unless advised by the dentist. Fluoride supplements are recommended for children living in unfluoridated areas. The supplements are administered to children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years who have a high risk of tooth decay. The fluoride supplement prescription must be in line with the ADA-approved supplement schedule.

Fluoride Levels in Drinking Water

You should consider home water treatments or an alternative water source if you live in an area where the fluoride levels in drinking water are above 2.0 mg/L or parts per million. If you have a private drinking water well, it is advisable to have it tested at least once yearly to determine its fluoride levels. You should especially get the water tested if you have small children in your household. You should then present the results of the water testing to your dentist for advice regarding your fluoride needs.

Fluorosis Treatment

Does fluorosis go away? In most cases, no treatment is needed for fluorosis because it is so mild, mainly affecting the back teeth where it is unnoticeable. Dentists can employ different treatments to improve the appearance of moderate or severely stained teeth. The treatments seek to mask or conceal the stains.

How do you get rid of fluorosis in your teeth? Some of the common treatments for dental fluorosis include:

  • Teeth whitening to remove the stains from the teeth – when your child first starts the teeth whitening treatment, the stains might appear to get worse before improving.
  • Dental crowns
  • Tooth bonding involves coating the teeth with a resin that adheres to the tooth enamel.
  • Veneers that cover the front surface of the teeth

Our Dentists Can Help

There are many variations in the appearance of a child’s tooth. Therefore, it can be challenging to determine if a child has fluorosis on teeth. If you suspect that your child has fluorosis, it is best to have their teeth checked by a dentist. Our dentist at Molson Park Dental will examine your child’s teeth, determine if your child is getting enough fluoride, and advise you in case of exposure to excessive fluoride.