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Dental Fluorosis is a condition that develops in young children after they take in an abundant amount of fluoride while their permanent teeth are still in development below the gums. Excessive fluoride during this stage can cause changes to the appearance of tooth enamel, leaving discolorations that may become permanent. Dental fluorosis spots in adults and teens can range from mild and barely noticeable to more intense discolorations.
A common culprit causing this condition is an excessive or unmonitored intake of flavored toothpaste and mouthwash products in young children. While there is nothing inherently dangerous about the typical fluoride content in oral care products, it can lead to issues when unmonitored and overused in children.
The discolorations and stains caused during early childhood often impact the confidence and mental health of those who are dealing with the lingering effects of excessive childhood fluoride intake.
What Does it Look Like?
With dental fluorosis, there isn’t one universal appearance, and the signs, symptoms, and prevalence will vary in severity from one person to the next. There are however a few common signs to look out for:
- Off-white spots or flakes throughout the teeth
- Discolorations at an early age, despite normal and healthy oral care
- Rough or pitted enamel
For the mildest of cases, the appearance of small spots on the surface of teeth may barely be noticeable, only visible to the keen observer or dental professional. It can escalate in appearance from this point with noticeable patches beginning to cover 10% to 50% of the teeth surface in more prevalent, but still relatively mild, cases. In moderate to severe cases, discolorations and heavy spotting are visible on most of a tooth’s enamel.
Whether mild, moderate, or severe, many instances of fluorosis can lead to struggles with anxiety for teenagers and adults, hampering their confidence for years in social and professional environments.
If you are dealing with this condition, the good news is that there are widespread and highly effective treatments available for those who wish to brighten their smiles and remove the effects of dental fluorosis! While many adults have lived with the effects of this condition for years and even decades, impacting their confidence through adolescence and into adulthood, most teeth with dental fluorosis discoloration can still be restored, repaired, or altered with dental care. The three most favorable ways of treatment are:
- Teeth whitening
- Veneer placement
- Dental bonding
Among the most well-known solutions, teeth whitening is the process of having teeth professionally brightened. This process is effective for most mild cases and helps to create a balanced and beautiful smile, free of white and yellow spots.
With in-office procedures, dentists apply a safe chemical-based solution or utilize advanced laser-whitening on the surface area of your teeth. This safe and relatively short process can show results after just the first visit. A dentist may recommend additional or recurring treatment depending on a case-by-case basis, depending on severity or discomfort.
If you’ve ever had a cavity filling before, you might already be somewhat familiar with the process of dental bonding. During bonding, dentists use composite materials, similar to that used in repairing cavities, to cover or smooth out abrasions or cracks and to repair other cosmetic defects in teeth. For fluorosis, this versatile procedure is used to mask discolorations by applying the natural colored compound without having to remove any enamel.
Composite bonding can normally be done in one procedure, and while it may require professional maintenance from time to time to keep up appearances, it can last for 3 to 10 years. Dental bonding is also reversible in the case of any unforeseen and uncommon issues.
Veneers can be a great option for cases where a more permanent solution is required. Veneers are small casings or coverings, typically porcelain, that is applied to cover, rather than repair, a tooth or teeth. Made to look natural, they offer the appearance of healthy and bright teeth.
Compared to whitening and dental bonding, this option will be more time-consuming but can offer some of the most impactful results. Several dental visits are necessary to ensure that the process is smooth and effective. Tooth molds, order time, and fit checks are all aspects of the veneer process and may take several weeks.
Once placed successfully, porcelain veneers can last for long periods of time; however, there are always variables that will differ for each person. Veneers are not reversible in most cases, as they do require the removal of natural parts of teeth to achieve a proper fit in most instances.
If you have been suffering from the mental and physical toll of fluorosis-related spotting, it’s not too late! As with many other conditions, treatments are now more prevalent and effective than ever for adults, even in the most persistent cases.
Before selecting any particular process or line of treatment for yourself, be sure to consult a dentist to be sure you are moving forward with the best option for you. From there, the possibilities for your smile are brighter than ever!