Fluorosis is a dental problem which happens when a child ingests too much fluoride during the early stages of tooth development. It usually affects children between the ages of one and four years old. It's at this stage when permanent teeth begin to form underneath the 'milk' teeth. Children over the age of eight are at almost no risk of developing fluorosis.

Symptoms of Fluorosis

If your child has an excess of fluoride in their diet while their permanent teeth are developing, this can bring about the noticeable signs of fluorosis. The main characteristic of fluorosis is the stains which form on the teeth when yellow and brown spots begin to appear on the enamel of the tooth. The colour changes can range from minor tinges to extensive changes in the enamel's surface. Stains and discoloured spots can also appear as streaks and in the more severe cases, black and gray spots or pits can develop.

Once your child's teeth are fully develop, fluorisis no longer poses any risk, this is usually around the age of eight at the latest. Although fluorosis isn't a disease in itself, it can be a very noticeable cosmetic condition. In minor cases of fluorosis the discolourations can be so tiny that only your dentist will notice them. The marks that flourorsis leaves on your teeth will be permanent, and as time passes they have a tendency to darken.

Diagnosing Fluorosis

It's easy for your dentist to spot the signs of fluorosis development at one of your regular checkups. You may be asked some questions about your child's diet such as if they're using fluoride supplements, a fluoride toothpaste or drinking an excess of fluoridated water. It's common to be asked about several other medical conditions which could potentially have a similar effect, so that they can be ruled out.

Your dentist will give your child a thorough oral examination and may take some X-ray photographs to scan for any other defects in the teeth. It's important not to assume your child has fluorosis if they develop stains on their teeth. There's a range of conditions, some more serious, which can produce symptoms similar in appearance to fluorosis, so make sure you have any discolouration examined by your dentist.

Treating Fluorosis

Fortunately, in most cases, the fluorosis is so minor that it doesn't warrant any treatment. Similarly, the discolouration associated with fluorosis can often occur only on the back of your teeth, where they can't be spotted. In more severe cases, the front teeth may have to be treated through teeth whitening or another cosmetic treatment. In the most extensive cases of fluorosis, the teeth which have become discoloured can be covered with dental restorations like veneers or crowns.

Preventing Fluorosis

You should make sure to only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste if your child is under the age of six. It's also important to make them spit after brushing rather than swallowing. As such, you should avoid toothpastes which might encourage swallowing like flavoured toothpastes and to make sure products which contain fluoride aren't anywhere your children can get at them. There's a number of soft and fruit drinks which contain fluoride and many brands of bottled water also contains added fluoride. It's important to make sure your child doesn't consume a lot of these beverages in order to avoid fluorosis.