Dental professionals love to talk about fluoride. This substance is naturally occurring & benefits dental health by strengthening tooth enamel. Dental professionals usually recommend toothpaste with fluoride, & many types of floss & mouthwash also contain fluoride. Even drinking water can have it.
Because it’s everywhere, it might be a surprise to learn that too much fluoride can negatively affect some people.
Fluorosis is a condition caused by consuming too much fluoride while your adult teeth are still developing, which happens until about age 9. Enamel, the strong outer layer of teeth, requires calcium to develop properly. Scientists have found that too much fluoride can disrupt the process, making the calcium less effective in building strong enamel.
Teeth affected by fluorosis can look splotchy, from small white spots or streaks to darker brown stains. In extreme cases, affected teeth can also be rough, caused by holes or pits in the enamel. Rough teeth are more difficult to clean & make it easier for bacteria to take hold & cause cavities.
There’s no way to reverse fluorosis, & thankfully mild cases typically do not need treatment. Mild to moderate cases that are visible might just need some cosmetic dentistry to match tooth color. Teeth whitening & microabrasion, when the dentist removes a very thin layer of enamel to even out the color, are typical treatments for mild cases of fluorosis.
Moderate & severe cases might require more extensive restorative work, especially if the teeth have pits & grooves that help bacteria get past the enamel to cause cavities. In these cases, your dentist might recommend bonding, veneers or crowns. An additional benefit to these procedures is that they treat other cosmetic concerns you might have, resulting in a brand new smile!
Of course, prevention is always best. If you have children, make sure to minimize the amount of fluoride toothpaste they’re using—kids ages 3–6 need a pea-sized amount, & kids under 3 only need a smear on their toothbrush—& teach them early how to spit it out when they’re done brushing.
If you would like some help determining if they are getting too much fluoride or just enough, we’re happy to discuss!