Dental Fluorosis Explained - Savina Dental Clinics Malta and Gozo

A study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that less than 25% of people aged between 6 and 49 years have dental fluorosis. Nonetheless, the incidence of dental fluorosis was higher in adolescents. This shows that children are more susceptible to fluorosis when exposed to excess fluoride. Even though fluorosis is not a serious dental condition, it is important to protect your little ones from it.

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What is dental fluorosis?

During early childhood, permanent teeth form beneath your gums. These teeth replace your milk teeth as soon as they fall off. By the time you are 8 years old, the crowns of your incoming permanent teeth are fully developed.

However, this does not apply to your wisdom teeth. Your wisdom teeth crowns are formed later in early adulthood. Fluorosis occurs when you consume excessive fluoride during the formation of your enamel. The fluoride may come as a result of children swallowing toothpaste, drinking fluoridated water, and so on.

What happens is that brown or white discolouration spots start appearing on your teeth. In some cases, the discolouration will also occur on your tooth’s surface. The effects can be mild or tremendously visible.

The good news is that fluorosis is not a dental disease but rather a cosmetic condition. Sometimes, you cannot tell that you have it, others it is very obvious. Nonetheless, dental practitioners can spot it easily.

Sources of fluoride

The fluoride that causes fluorosis may come from dental products. These are the likes of mouthwash and toothpaste. Children love to taste different types of things. As soon as they learn how to use toothpaste, they may enjoy the taste to a point of swallowing it frequently. Moreover, children could be taking supplements that have high levels of fluoride. Fortified juices and fluoridated water are also other common sources of fluoride.

Dental Fluorosis symptoms

Dental fluorosis manifests itself in several ways. These include white streaks or spots. Also, you may have faint dark brown spots on your enamel. In some cases, you can have a rough enamel that is quite challenging to clean. Pitted teeth with brown or grey spots appear in severe cases of fluorosis.

When to speak to a dental professional

Dental health experts urge parents to take their children to a dentist once they notice dark brown spots and white lines on their teeth. Your dentist will take a closer look to identify the problem.

Dental fluorosis prevention

Fluorosis frequently asked questions - savina dental clinics malta and gozo

If your child is younger than 6 years of age, you need to supervise them when they are brushing their teeth. This is because they tend to swallow the toothpaste.

Ensure that you only put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush. The goal is to limit their fluoride intake.

Let your children know that they should spit instead of swallowing toothpaste. Children love to swallow toothpaste that has a flavour. To prevent this from happening, avoid buying tubes of toothpaste with an alluring flavour.

Besides that, children are curious and they like to experiment. As such, they are likely to try out the mouthwash or ingest toothpaste. For these reasons, it is best to keep dental products out of the reach of your children.

To prevent various diseases, experts recommend that you add fluoride to water. Although you may not do it at home, it is a common practice in water treatment. This means that the water from your tap is probably fluoridated.

Children are prone to cavities. As preventative measures, fluoride supplements are necessary where children are not drinking fluoridated water. If you have thought of getting your child a fluoride supplement, ensure that you know the fluoride levels in your drinking water. You may find that it is enough and the supplements will only increase the chances of your child getting fluorosis. Calling a dentist to ascertain the amount of fluoride in your drinking water can also help to keep fluorosis at bay.

In some areas, the naturally occurring fluoride in public water is about 2 mg/l. This high concentration puts the children at a higher risk of dental fluorosis. The good news is that you can still protect children that are below 8 years from fluorosis. However, you will need to look for an alternative source of water with healthy fluoride levels. You can consider ordering bottled water for them.

Diagnosis and treatment

When you take your child to the dentist after noticing fluorosis-like symptoms, they examine their teeth to ascertain that it is indeed fluorosis. They may ask if your child has been exposed to excess fluoride, and they may name a few sources of fluoride that could have led to the fluorosis. The dentist may also ask about the child’s medical history. At this point, the ultimate objective is to know whether your child has any disabilities.

At times, x-rays are necessary, as dental health experts do not want to miss any problems that the child may have. What you may not know is that injuries from a fall in young children or infants can cause teeth discolouration. Besides that, children’s teeth are prone to decay which could be the cause of the discolouration. Therefore, it is important to take your child to the dentist when you notice anything unusual with their teeth.

Fluorosis does not put your child at the risk of serious dental issues when it is mild. You may not even need to seek any medical intervention. Experts mostly see it as a dental cosmetic issue. But when severe, fluorosis can affect your child’s teeth. It can weaken their enamel and lead to other dental health problems. Besides that, cosmetic solutions to this condition can be costly.

That said, take your child for dental checkups at an early age. The dentist may catch the fluorosis early and manage it before it spirals out of control.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.