3 Things Parents Need to Know about Severe Dental Fluorosis
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps to prevent tooth decay. It's added to community water systems, toothpaste, and mouth rinses, and in appropriate quantities, it can help to keep your child's teeth strong and free of decay. However, it's possible to get too much of a good thing. Excessive fluoride exposure can lead to severe dental fluorosis. Here are three things parents need to know about this condition.
What is severe dental fluorosis?
Severe dental fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that causes major changes in the appearance of your child's teeth. When children are exposed to too much fluoride while their teeth are still developing, their enamel can become hypomineralized.
Children with severe dental fluorosis have brown or black stains on the surface of their enamel. All of the enamel surfaces are affected by this discoloration, and this can make your child's teeth look severely corroded.
Discoloration isn't the only sign of severe dental fluorosis. Pits—either confluent or discrete—will be present on their enamel. This pitting can be severe enough to change the shape of your child's teeth and make them look deformed.
How much fluoride is too much?
The recommended daily allowance of fluoride varies based on the age of your child. Children between one and three years old should only have 0.7 mg per day, while those between four and eight need 1 mg per day.
Tap water will provide much of your child's fluoride needs. For children who don't have a high risk of tooth decay, fluoride toothpaste isn't necessary until they are three years old. If your dentist thinks your child has a high risk, you'll need to brush their teeth with a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste. You should only apply a rice grain-sized amount of toothpaste to their toothbrush. This doesn't look like much, but it's enough to get their teeth clean without putting them at risk of severe dental fluorosis.
Children between three and six years old should use fluoride toothpaste even if they don't have a high risk of tooth decay. It's still important to use a very small (about the size of a pea) amount, though. Since young children tend to swallow their toothpaste instead of spitting it out, make sure to supervise your child while they brush. If your child swallows their fluoride toothpaste, they will be exposed to too much fluoride and could develop severe dental fluorosis.
Can severe dental fluorosis be reversed?
Preventing severe dental fluorosis is the best strategy, but if your child develops this condition despite your best efforts to prevent it, treatments are available. These treatments include composite restorations and veneers.
Composite restorations are tooth-colored resins that are applied to the front surfaces of the teeth, sculpted by the dentist and then hardened in place with a special light. This treatment is noninvasive and can be used to cover up the pitting and discoloration on your child's teeth.
Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are permanently fixed to the front surfaces of the teeth, and like composite restorations, they hide the appearance of severe dental fluorosis. The dentist may need to shave away some of your child's enamel to make room for the veneers, but they will try to preserve as much of your child's natural teeth as possible.
Both composite restorations and veneers will restore the look of your child's teeth. After examining your child's teeth, your dentist will recommend the most appropriate treatment for their situation.
Fluoride is good for your child's teeth in low doses, but if they're exposed to excessive levels of this mineral, their teeth could become severely discolored and pitted. If you think your child has severe dental fluorosis, look for dental services by Bloor Smile Dental or another facility right away.