A bright and beautiful smile is not only a great asset but also a powerful way to brighten up the days. But white spots, brown stains, cloudy splotches, pitting, etc., can steal the shining smile of a person. Dental fluorosis is one of the most common reasons behind such issues, and almost millions of Americans are now affected by this condition. So, how to know whether you or your child is suffering from it? What are the available treatments and home remedies for dental fluorosis? How to prevent it successfully? We will talk about everything here. So, keep reading to know more.
What is Dental Fluorosis?
Fluorosis or dental fluorosis is a common painless cosmetic condition in which the appearance of tooth enamel gets changed partially or entirely due to overexposure to fluoride. It leaves the teeth slightly discolored or significantly stained (yellow to dark brown) based on the acuteness of the condition. In moderate to severe dental fluorosis, the porosity of tooth enamel also gets increased through hypomineralization. This may even lead to dental erosion or dental crumbling, thereby disfiguring a person’s smile to a large extent. However, fluorosis is not a dental disease, and it does not have a significant negative impact on our dental health. While mild to moderate fluorosis can be treated cosmetically or with simple home remedies, the damage caused to tooth enamel is permanent. (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 exposed to too much fluoride over a long period of 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 very slight changes to the teeth’ enamel, ranging from a few white flecks to sparing white spots.
- Very Mild Fluorosis: In this condition, the teeth develop small, opaque, paper-white patches irregularly over 25% of its 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: Here, the opaque white spots turn into prominent chalky stains and affect more than 50% of the enamel surface.
- Severe Fluorosis: Apart from 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, thereby giving them a corroded look.
Read Also – DIY – How to Prevent Stained Teeth
Who are at Risk of Dental Fluorosis?
Typically, children below 8 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 of 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
When you have mild dental fluorosis, you can use the listed home remedies to prevent further damage and whiten your teeth. 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 possibly 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 be used to whiten teeth too. You can either purchase toothpaste with baking soda incorporated in it or formulate one yourself. If you decide to make your own, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of non-fluoride toothpaste and brush as you usually do. Another way to use baking soda for this purpose is to pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 tablespoon of baking soda and use the paste for teeth cleaning. Keep repeating until the desired outcome is achieved.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
You can take 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide (3%) and 2 teaspoons of water in a cup and mix them thoroughly. Swish it in your mouth for no more than 1 minute. Once it becomes foamy enough, spit out and rinse the mouth well with plain water. Repeat this process daily until improvements prevail. Make sure that the strength of peroxide is 3% only, which is safe in case of accidental consumption.
5. Vitamin C-rich Foods
Certain fruits and vegetables are good for your teeth, especially when you have the symptoms of fluorosis. Some of the most common fruits to eat for teeth are carrots, celery, and apples. These are high in vitamin C, which kills bacteria and which helps remove plaque at the same time by producing more saliva. You should also avoid everything 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
In this professional method, a small amount of enamel is removed 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 stronger 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 recommended fluoride supplement dosage
- Test well water to know its fluoride levels
- Keep your dentist appointments scheduled
Dental fluorosis is a common painless cosmetic condition in which the appearance of tooth enamel gets changed partially or entirely due to overexposure to fluoride. It leaves the teeth stained, increases the porosity of tooth enamel, and sometimes even lead to dental erosion or crumbling, thereby disfiguring the smile of a person to a large extent. Though the damage caused to tooth enamel is permanent, fluorosis actually is not a dental disease. Children below 8 years, whose permanent teeth are developing under the gums, are at risk of developing it. Older children and adults usually do not get it. Fluorosis occurs when the body gets exposed to too much fluoride over long periods due to fluoridated drinking water, fluoride-based toothpaste and mouth rinses, fluoride-fortified foods, excessive fluoride supplements, etc. Based on the severity of the condition, it can be categorized into ‘questionable’, ‘very mild’, ‘mild’, ‘moderate’, and ‘severe’. Unless it is severe fluorosis, you can try home remedies and follow preventive measures to bring it under control.
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?
In very mild and mild fluorosis, people remain resistant to bacterial tooth decay. But moderate to severe fluorosis makes teeth weaker. Severe conditions may also cause physical damage to your teeth permanently.
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 needed for maintaining 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