Your permanent teeth form under your gums in the jawbone during early childhood. They appear in your mouth as the primary or "baby" teeth are lost. The crowns of nearly all of the permanent teeth are fully formed by the time you are about 8 years old. The exception is the wisdom teeth, which form in young adulthood. The crown is the part of a tooth you can see in your mouth.
Consuming too much fluoride while the teeth are being formed can lead to fluorosis. This condition causes white or brown discoloration or spots on the enamel, or tooth surface. The effects can range from minor color changes to surface irregularities of the teeth. Fluorosis does not develop after teeth have erupted into the mouth.
Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition, not a disease. Often, it is so mild that only a dental professional can detect it. Most cases of fluorosis result from young children taking fluoride supplements or swallowing fluoride toothpaste when the water they drink is already fluoridated.
Teeth affected by mild fluorosis may show no changes or changes visible only to a dental professional. Mild to moderate fluorosis produces white lines, streaks or spots. In more severe fluorosis, the teeth can become pitted and have brown, gray or black spots. The enamel also may have an unusual shape.
Your dentist and dental hygienist will ask about fluoride intake. This will help to determine if the discoloration seen is a result of fluorosis. They also will ask about past and present medical conditions or disabilities that may affect your teeth. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums and take X-rays to make sure the teeth have no other defects or cavities.
Other conditions may look like fluorosis. Developmental defects and problems with the skull or bones of the face can disrupt the enamel or dentin of the teeth. In addition, high fevers or trauma (such as a fall that injures a tooth) in infants or young children may discolor teeth. Young children can get cavities in their primary teeth, so any tooth discoloration should be checked at the dental office.
Remember that fluorosis affects only the appearance of teeth. It does not result in cavities. As a result, most of the treatment for fluorosis consists of masking the stain.
Many cases of fluorosis are minor enough not to need treatment. Sometimes fluorosis occurs only on the back teeth, where it cannot be seen. More serious cases and cases involving the front teeth can be treated by removing the surface-stained areas through tooth whitening or other procedures. Severe cases of fluorosis can be covered with bonding, crowns or veneers.
If you notice white streaks or spots on your child's teeth or notice that one or more teeth are discolored, contact Toledo area Light Touch Dental Care.