Dental Fluorosis - What Causes it and How to Prevent ItThe discovery of fluoride and its role in dental health is a milestone in the history of dentistry. The role of fluoride in strengthening your teeth and protecting them from decay has been well documented. Fluoride toothpastes and products are recommended by all dentists for their protective properties.
However, there can be too much of a good thing. Ingesting large amounts of fluoride by children whose teeth are still developing, can lead to a condition called Fluorosis. This is mainly a cosmetic dental condition in which spots begin to appear on the tooth enamel. These spots can be white, brown and grey in color. Initially, there may be light colored spots while unevenness may be caused as the condition progresses. Fluorosis is hard to diagnose, and it takes a dentist to notice the symptoms of this condition. Fluorosis is traced to the taking of fluoride supplements by children who are already receiving adequate quantities of fluoride from their drinking water. Most drinking water supplies in the country have fluoride supplements added to them. The fluoride in such drinking water is sufficient for dental health, and when a child is given additional supplements, it can cause fluorosis.
Symptoms of fluorosis
In the beginning, there may be hardly any changes visible on the teeth. As the condition begins to progress, white streaks and spots make their appearance. When fluorosis reaches an advanced stage, you will begin to notice pits on the teeth. In extreme conditions, these spots turn brown, grey or black in color. These dark streaks and spots can't be removed, and the color may actually get darker as the time goes by. If you notice light colored spots on your child's teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist. A dental professional will be able to determine if these streaks are the result of fluorosis. He will enquire about any fluoride supplements that your child is taking. Changes in the color of the teeth can occur because of other conditions like fever or dental trauma, and these must be ruled out before your dentist can confirm flourosis. Discoloration can also result from the use of tetracycline antibiotics. Your dentist will take x rays of the child's teeth to rule out other causes of the spotting.
The spots are permanent, and the only way to make them less visible is to conceal them through dental procedures. For light stains, tooth whitening can help lighten the effect of the stains. When the stains become dark and clearly visible, your dentist may suggest veneers, crowns or bonding procedures to hide the stains. If the flourosis is limited only to the molars or back teeth, no treatment may be necessary because these stains are not visible.
Prevention of fluorosis
Fluorosis stains are permanent, and so, it is advisable to prevent the condition in the first place.
- Give your child only small quantities of tooth paste on her toothbrush.
- Teach the child the proper way to brush, including spitting out the toothpaste
- Avoid giving the child flavored toothpaste that may increase the chances of swallowing.
- Keep fluoride rinses and tablets away from children.
- Don't give your child fluoride supplements unless there are insufficient quantities of fluoride in your drinking water. If in doubt whether your water contains enough fluoride, simply call your local water supply company, and enquire about fluoride content levels. Alternatively, you can also get your drinking water supplies tested by a local laboratory. If the fluoride levels are low, then discuss the use of fluoride supplements with your dentist.
- Remember that fluoride intake by your child will also include fluoride from beverages, juices and soft drinks that contain fluoridated water. Drinking these additional fluoridated juices and beverages, besides water can expose your child the risk of excessive fluoride consumption.
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