Dental fluorosis is a condition in which white spots or lines appear on the teeth. Although not painful or otherwise harmful, dental fluorosis can be an unpleasant condition for those who have noticeably whiter spots on their teeth. Here’s everything you need to know about this common condition that affects 1 in 4 Americans!
What It Looks Like
The appearance of dental fluorosis can vary from person to person. Some people may have white lines in their enamel that look subtly different from the rest of their teeth. Other may have white flecks or spots in their enamel. However, dental fluorosis could also be present as brown stains on the teeth. Your enamel may even be grooved and make these dark areas difficult to clean. The good news is that although dental fluorosis isn’t harmful, it can still be treated if you’re self-conscious of your white marks.
Causes of Dental Fluorosis
Dental fluorosis is caused by a lack of minerals in your tooth’s enamel. This usually comes from the excessive consumption of fluoride. Fluoride is naturally present in water, but some cities add additional fluoride to their drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. Although fluoride is generally considered a good thing by oral health care professionals, too much fluoride is just as bad as not enough. Between multiple sources of fluoride such as those from drinking water, toothpaste, and mouth rinses, children may be exposed to excessive amounts of fluoride that could lead to dental fluorosis.
How to Prevent It
The interesting thing about dental fluorosis is that it only happens during the formation of teeth in the jaw. This means the only time dental fluorosis can happen is during childhood after the primary teeth fall out and before the permanent teeth come in. In fact, it’s impossible for dental fluorosis to develop after the adult teeth have come in. Talk to your dentist about how much fluoride your kids actually need and what fluoride sources they’re exposed to. Your dentist can advise you if you should cut back on the fluoride. Ensure your kids don’t swallow their fluoride dental products. Some kids swallow because they taste good, but this can increase their fluoride intake and be dangerous!
Fortunately, dental fluorosis isn’t a disease, just a cosmetic problem. Sometimes the uneven whitening is only noticeable by your dentist. For others, the white areas are more severe. For most people who have dental fluorosis, the whitening isn’t severe enough to warrant treatment as the appearance will be subtle.
Although fluorosis won’t cause other dental health problems, the stains will be permanent. Treatment can help mask the stains and improve the appearance of your smile. Your dentist might suggest professional teeth whitening to even out the white areas, crowns, or veneers to help alleviate the appearance of your dental fluorosis.
Having dental fluorosis can be a nuisance to your physical appearance, but there aren’t any lasting effects of this condition on your oral health. Talk to you dentist if you’re concerned about the look of your dental fluorosis, or if you want to know more about the appropriate amount of fluoride for your children’s teeth!