A radiant and captivating smile is a valuable asset and a potent means to illuminate one’s days. However, the presence of white spots, brown stains, cloudy splotches, or pitting can diminish the brilliance of a person’s smile. Dental fluorosis stands out as one of the most prevalent reasons behind such dental concerns, affecting millions of Americans. Dive into the following information to gain insights into the nuances of dental fluorosis and empower yourself with knowledge for maintaining a vibrant and healthy smile.
What is Dental Fluorosis?
Fluorosis, or dental fluorosis, is a prevalent and painless cosmetic condition characterized by a partial or complete alteration in tooth enamel’s appearance due to excessive fluoride exposure. This condition results in teeth displaying varying degrees of discoloration, ranging from slight color changes to significant staining (yellow to dark brown), depending on the severity of the fluorosis. In cases of moderate to severe dental fluorosis, the porosity of tooth enamel increases due to hypomineralization, potentially leading to dental erosion or crumbling and causing noticeable distortion in a person’s smile.
It’s important to note that fluorosis is not classified as a dental disease, and its impact on overall dental health is not significantly negative. While mild to moderate fluorosis can be addressed through cosmetic treatments or simple home remedies, it’s crucial to understand that the damage inflicted on tooth enamel is permanent. This insight emphasizes the significance of preventive measures and early interventions to manage fluorosis and preserve the aesthetics of a person’s smile. (1)
Dental fluorosis was first identified in native-born residents of Colorado Springs in the early 20th Century. It was caused by high levels of fluoride in the local water supply (groundwater) and was named ‘Colorado Brown Stain’. This made the residents highly resistant to dental cavities. With the widespread use of fluoride in dentistry, the rates of fluorosis are on the rise these days.
Source – Wikipedia
What Causes Dental Fluorosis?
Dental fluorosis occurs when the body gets too much fluoride over time. Some of the most common causes of fluoride overexposure are given below (2):
- Having fluoridated drinking water
- Ingestion of fluoride-based toothpaste and mouth rinses
- Consumption of fluoride-fortified fruit juices and soft drinks
- Taking fluoride supplements frequently and in higher-than-prescribed amounts
- Taking fluoride supplements with fluoridated drinking water
When used in low concentration, the naturally-occurring mineral fluoride helps in preventing cavities and maintaining dental health in both children and adults (3). Hence, it is added to toothpastes, mouth rinses, and even public drinking water sources (water fluoridation), which is considered safe and effective by the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (4).
Symptoms of Dental Fluorosis
- Yellow to dark mottled brown spots on the enamel
- Faint white spots or splotches or streaks on teeth
- Severe discoloration of one or more teeth
- Highly noticeable pits on the enamel
- Irregularities of teeth surface
- Permanent damage to the tooth enamel
Types of Dental Fluorosis
Based on its severity, dental fluorosis is categorized into the following types (6):
- Questionable Fluorosis: It causes slight changes to the teeth’ enamel, ranging from a few white dots to sparing white spots.
- Very Mild Fluorosis: In this condition, the teeth develop small, opaque, paper-white patches irregularly over 25% of their surface.
- Mild Fluorosis: There are cloudy or pearly white lines, patches, or marks on the enamel, which are extensive but do not cover more than 50% of the teeth’ surface.
- Moderate Fluorosis: The opaque white spots become prominent chalky stains, affecting more than 50% of the enamel surface.
- Severe Fluorosis: Besides causing yellow or brown stains, this condition affects all enamel surfaces by making them rough, brittle, or pitted (discrete or confluent). It may also make parts of your teeth go missing, giving them a corroded look.
Read Also – DIY – How to Prevent Stained Teeth
Who is at Risk of Dental Fluorosis?
Typically, children below eight years, whose permanent teeth are developing under the gums, are at risk of developing dental fluorosis (7). Older children and adults usually do not get it. However, the latest statistics from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reveal that 1 in every 4 Americans between 6 and 49 years have some dental fluorosis. The high prevalence has been seen in kids 12-15 years of age – more than 40% are mild to mild, 2% are moderate, and less than 1% are severe (8). However, the number of people suffering from the issue is increasing rapidly, and almost 41% of American adolescents are now suffering from some form of fluorosis.
If your children are swallowing toothpaste or drinking tap water while brushing, this could be the cause of overexposure to fluoride. Monitor them while they are brushing their teeth to ensure that they are doing the task properly.
5 Home Remedies for Dental Fluorosis
You can use the listed home remedies to prevent further damage and whiten your teeth when you have mild dental fluorosis. Here we go:
1. Less Caffeinated Beverages
If you have problems with teeth stains, start by cutting out black tea, coffee, red wine, and dark sodas. The high contents of caffeine in these products could cause unwanted discoloration. Some people believe that if you drink these listed items through a straw, you will not get dental fluorosis. However, this is not true. The liquid still gets in touch with your teeth once it enters the mouth, thus causing staining. You can replace these products easily with green tea, decaffeinated coffee, white wine, and light-colored sodas.
2. Products with Low Fluoride Levels
Make sure to stop drinking water with high fluoride content. Instead, you can opt for bottled water or get a filter for your tap faucet. Also, do not buy toothpaste with fluoride in it. Instead, buy more organic foods to cut out processed foods.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda is not just used for baking anymore; it can also be used to whiten teeth; you can either purchase toothpaste with baking soda incorporated in it or formulate one yourself. If you make your own, mix one teaspoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of non-fluoride toothpaste and brush as usual. Another way to use baking soda for this purpose is to pour one tablespoon of lemon juice into one tablespoon of baking soda and use the paste for teeth cleaning. Keep repeating until the desired outcome is achieved.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
In a cup, combine two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two teaspoons of water, ensuring thorough mixing. Gargle the solution in your mouth for no longer than 1 minute. Spit it out once it becomes sufficiently foamy, and rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain water. Repeat this procedure daily until positive changes are observed. Ensure that the hydrogen peroxide strength is 3%, a safe level in case of accidental ingestion.
5. Vitamin C-rich Foods
Certain fruits and vegetables are good for your teeth, especially when you have the symptoms of fluorosis. Carrots, celery, and apples are some of the most common fruits to eat for teeth. These are high in vitamin C, which kills bacteria and helps remove plaque at the same time by producing more saliva. Avoid acidic products like tomato sauces, pickles, balsamic vinegar, and oranges. Even soy sauce has also been proven to turn teeth discolored.
Treatments of Dental Fluorosis
If you have severe dental fluorosis, consult a dentist for further assistance. Depending on the underlying causes and the intensity of your problem, you may need to undergo the following treatments:
1. Enamel Microdermabrasion
This professional method removes a small amount of enamel from the teeth to make the white spots less prominent.
2. Teeth Whitening or Bleaching
This follows microdermabrasion to give the teeth a more uniform color. Again, OTC teeth whitening products (pastes, strips, etc.) or even more robust bleaching solutions are used in this process.
3. Dental Veneer
Available with dentists, veneers are thin, protective, and custom-made coverings usually attached to the front surface of the teeth. They hide surface stains quite effectively and are a bit pricey.
Sometimes dentists use MI paste along with microdermabrasion. This calcium phosphate compound helps in minimizing tooth discoloration to a large extent.
Preventive Tips to Follow
Finally, we have some pro tips and tricks to help you fight against dental fluorosis even before it arrives. Check out the preventive measures that you should follow for this purpose:
- Brush your teeth twice a day (three times if highly desired)
- Use fluoride toothpaste in the right amounts
- Floss after each brushing
- Use mouthwash twice a day after brushing
- Avoid fluoridated water to stop fluoride build-ups
- Stay away from sugary and acidic foods
- Do not exceed the recommended fluoride supplement dosage
- Test well water to know its fluoride levels
- Keep your dentist appointments scheduled
Dental fluorosis, resulting from prolonged exposure to excess fluoride, alters tooth enamel appearance, causing staining, increased enamel porosity, and potential dental erosion. Although the enamel damage is permanent, fluorosis is not a dental disease but rather a cosmetic concern. It typically affects children under 8 years during permanent tooth development and is associated with factors like fluoridated water, fluoride toothpaste, and supplements. Severity ranges from ‘questionable’ to ‘severe,’ and while severe cases may require professional intervention, home remedies and preventive measures can help manage milder forms of fluorosis.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Dental Fluorosis Permanent?
Mild to moderate dental fluorosis can be treated with simple home remedies or dental treatments. However, the condition usually causes permanent damage to teeth enamel, which cannot be reversed. Severe fluorosis also leads to permanent damage to the teeth.
Does Fluorosis Weaken Teeth?
People remain resistant to bacterial tooth decay in very mild and mild fluorosis. However, moderate to severe fluorosis makes teeth weaker. Extreme conditions may also cause permanent physical damage to your teeth.
Which Teeth Are Affected More by Fluorosis?
It has been found that fluorosis affects maxillary teeth the most and first molars the least. (9)
Is Dental Fluorosis Hereditary?
Studies have found that moderate dental fluorosis and severe dental fluorosis are complications of hereditary diabetes insipidus. (10)
Is Bottled Water Fluoridated?
Most bottled waters do not contain enough fluoride to maintain our dental health. It needs to be added separately. (11)
- “Dental Fluorosis is a “Hypo-Mineralization” of Enamel,” FluorideAlert.org
- “What is Fluorosis? Learn About Dental Fluorosis Causes and Treatment“, Dentaly.org
- “What is Fluoride, and Is It Safe?“, Healthline.com
- “FAQ: Fluoride and Children,” HealthyChildren.org
- “The Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Fluorosis,” VeryWellHealth.com
- “Fluorosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments“, WebMD.com
- “Fluorosis“, CDC.gov
- “Fluorosis Overview“, WebMD.com
- “Reversal of Dental Fluorosis: A Clinical Study“, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Dental Fluorosis As a Complication of Hereditary Diabetes Insipidus: Studies of Six Affected Patients,” NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Bottled Water“, CDC.gov