There have been many debates and mixed opinions on the use of fluoride in recent years. Mixed opinions range from whether or not it should be in the municipal water supply and consumed systemically, and also whether it should be used topically at the dentist or in products such as toothpaste. Although fluoride has ample benefits, it is toxic when ingested in significant amounts.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that has been proven to reduce cavity risk in children and adults by strengthening the outer layer of our teeth, called the enamel. Fluoride accomplishes this by making the structure more ridged. Fluoride has been added to many municipalities’ water supply in low doses to help reduce the cavity risk of entire populations. It is also added to products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, to be used topically to achieve the same outcome.
What is dental fluorosis?
Dental fluorosis occurs when there is too high an intake of fluoride. Too much fluoride can cause brittle teeth and bones by altering the integrity of the organic structures in our bodies. Dental fluorosis can be caused by too high an amount of fluoride in the drinking water or by swallowing products that contain fluoride, such as toothpaste. Fluorosis typically affects the adult teeth because a child will begin using products containing fluoride around three years old until the adult teeth start erupting.
Fluoride in municipal water
Adding fluoride to the municipal water supply started when it was observed that natural drinking water in Colorado contained higher amounts of naturally occurring fluoride, and the surrounding communities had lower rates of cavities. At first, many municipalities added too much fluoride to the drinking water, leading to many cases of fluorosis. Since then, fluoride has been reduced to a level that will not cause fluorosis.
Signs of dental fluorosis
The teeth will appear discoloured and have white, yellow, or brown notches. These discolorations can range from mild to severe, depending on the level of fluorosis. The enamel will be rough, pitted and not smooth. Teeth with fluorosis will be more susceptible to chipping, breaking and wear.
Preventing dental fluorosis
Drinking water is safe to consume in most municipalities, as the fluoride content has been greatly reduced. Children should be monitored while using products containing fluoride until at least the age of 6 to make sure they aren’t eating or swallowing it.
Treating dental fluorosis
Treatment may be required to repair the teeth’ surfaces, including dental bonding, veneers or dental crowns.
If you have questions about dental fluorosis, we encourage you to contact us today.