Fluorosis is a condition that results in white or brown speckles on your teeth. It’s caused by overexposure to fluoride in the early years of life, when your permanent teeth are developing. Fluorosis is a cosmetic concern and isn’t harmful to your health. But there are treatments that can address the issue.
Fluorosis is a cosmetic dental condition that’s characterized by white or brown spots on your teeth. These spots can range from tiny white flecks that are almost unnoticeable to dark brown patches that are clearly visible.
Dental fluorosis affects people who were overexposed to fluoride during their developmental years, before their permanent (adult) teeth grew in. Children aged 8 or younger are at risk for developing fluorosis. Teeth that have already erupted (grown in) can’t get fluorosis.
Mild fluorosis is quite common, affecting about 1 in every 4 Americans between the ages of 6 and 49. Moderate to severe fluorosis is far less common in the U.S.
No. Dental fluorosis has no impact on oral health or function. In fact, people with fluorosis are actually more resistant to cavities. This discovery is what prompted health officials to introduce fluoride into public water supplies at a safe level. This means that public water supplies would have enough fluoride to help prevent tooth decay, but not enough to cause fluorosis. (Note: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water is the recommended level.)
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Tooth discoloration is the only symptom of fluorosis. Discoloration can vary depending on the severity of your condition. Dentists use the following terms to categorize fluorosis:
In mild cases, tooth discoloration can be so slight that no one but your dentist would notice. But if fluorosis is having a negative impact on your confidence or self-esteem, cosmetic dental treatments can help.
Dental fluorosis happens when a child consistently ingests too much fluoride while their permanent teeth are still forming under their gums. This includes drinking heavily fluoridated water or swallowing fluoride toothpaste.
Dental fluorosis in adults doesn’t occur. It only affects teeth that are still developing under the gums.
Your dentist can diagnose fluorosis during a routine dental examination.
Fluorosis stains won’t go away with brushing and flossing. The only way to get rid of fluorosis is with cosmetic dental treatments like dental bonding, veneers or crowns. These treatments are further explored in the section below.
There are cosmetic dental procedures that can address fluorosis. The treatment that’s best for you depends on several factors, including the severity of fluorosis, your budget and your own personal preferences. Common fluorosis treatments include:
To reduce your child’s risk for fluorosis, be aware of how much fluoride they’re exposed to. Find out about water fluoridation laws in your area, or test your well water for fluoride levels. While you don’t want your child exposed to too much fluoride, you also want to make sure they get enough while their teeth are developing. The proper amount of fluoride is important for your child’s oral health.
In addition, you should:
Visit your dentist at least every six months for routine dental check-ups.
Fluorosis isn’t harmful to your dental or overall health. From a medical standpoint, you don’t need to seek treatment. But if fluorosis is causing embarrassment or low self-esteem, cosmetic dentistry can dramatically improve your smile and boost your confidence.
If you’re embarrassed or self-conscious about fluorosis stains, schedule an appointment with your dentist. They can discuss your treatment options in detail.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dental fluorosis is a harmless condition, but it can detract from the appearance of your smile. If tooth discoloration is causing embarrassment or low self-esteem, schedule a visit with your dentist. They’ll talk with you about your cosmetic goals and design a tailored treatment plan that works for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/08/2022.
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