Do your teeth, or your child’s teeth, have white spots? white streaks? cloudy splotches? brown stains? pitting? If so, you or your child may be among the millions of Americans who now have a condition called dental fluorosis.
Fluorosis is a defect of tooth enamel caused by too much fluoride intake during the first 8 years of life. Although fluorosis can be cosmetically treated, the damage to the enamel is permanent. Common causes of fluorosis include: fluoridated drinking water (particularly during infancy), ingestion of fluoride toothpaste, use of fluoride tablets, and consumption of processed foods made with fluoridated water.
Fluorosis Rates Are on the Rise
Before the widespread use of fluoride in dentistry, dental fluorosis was rarely found in western countries. Today, with virtually every toothpaste now containing fluoride, and most U.S. water supplies containing fluoride chemicals, dental fluorosis rates have reached unprecedented levels. According to the latest national survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 41% of American adolescents now have some form of fluorosis — an increase of over 400% from the rates found 60 years ago. (CDC 2010)
What Is Fluorosis?
Dental fluorosis is a defect of the teeth marked by increased porosity of the enamel (a condition known as “hypomineralization“). In the “moderate” and severe forms of fluorosis, the enamel’s porosity increases to such an extent that the teeth can begin to erode and crumble. Teeth with moderate and severe fluorosis also have very pronounced staining which can deeply disfigure a child’s smile.
Fluorosis & Self-Esteem
Children with dental fluorosis can suffer significant embarrassment and anxiety over the appearance of their teeth. No matter how much they might brush and floss, the fluorosis stains do not go away. In cases of severe fluorosis, a child may be perceived as having “dirty” or “rotten” teeth, which can cause significant damage to a child’s self esteem and emotional well-being. Even “mild” fluorosis — particularly when present on the front two teeth — can be highly objectionable. Indeed, although fluoride advocates used to downplay the esthetic effect of mild fluorosis, studies since the 1990s have repeatedly found that the general public views such teeth as less pleasing, less attractive, and more likely to cause embarrassment to the affected child than normal, non-fluorosed teeth. It is currently estimated that water fluoridation causes cosmetically objectionable fluorosis in 2 to 12% of the population.
Fluorosis: A Visible Sign of Systemic Toxicity
The cosmetic and psychological effects of fluorosis are significant. Dental fluorosis is not limited, however, to cosmetic concerns. The teeth are not the only tissue in the body that accumulate fluoride (the bones, pineal gland, and arteries accumulate it as well). There is no apparent reason, therefore, why fluoride’s effects on the body will be limited to the teeth. As noted by Dr. Hardy Limeback, “it is illogical to assume that tooth enamel is the only tissue affected by low daily doses of fluoride ingestion.” According to the late Dr. John Colquhoun, “Common sense should tell us that if a poison circulating in a child’s body can damage the tooth-forming cells, then other harm also is likely.”
In one study, for example, a British researcher found that the cells in the pineal gland (a gland that contains calcified deposits that accumulate fluoride) were just as susceptible to fluoride-induced toxicity as the tooth-forming cells. Unlike the teeth, however, the pineal gland cannot be seen by the naked eye. As noted by the researcher, “The safety of the use of fluorides ultimately rests on the assumption that the developing enamel organ is most sensitive to the toxic effects of fluoride. The results from this study suggest that-the pinealocytes may be as susceptible to fluoride as the developing enamel organ.” (Luke 1997).
- Pictures: To see more photos of dental fluorosis, click here.
- Personal Stories: To read letters from individuals and families impacted by dental fluorosis, click here.
- Research: To read research on dental fluorosis, including studies documenting the increase in its prevalence and the impact it can have on a child’s self-esteem, click here.
- Diagnosis: To see the diagnostic criteria for “very mild,” “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe” fluorosis, click here.
- Treatment Options: To learn more about the options for cosmetically treating fluorosis, click here.
Effects of Water Fluoridation on Teeth: Dental Fluorosis vs. Tooth Decay
From a risk/benefit perspective, water fluoridation is an unacceptably risky practice -- a fact that is evident even if teeth are the only tissue in the body that one considers. Modern research shows that fluoride ingestion (from water alone, or all sources combined) is far more likely to cause teeth to develop fluorosis than it
New Hampshire Passes First State-Wide Fluoride Warning Law
Beginning August 4, 2012, New Hampshire will require notification that 6-month-olds should not be routinely fed infant formula mixed with fluoridated water to avoid discoloring babies' unerupted teeth (fluorosis), reports the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). Passed by the House, 253-23, unanimously by the Senate, and signed by the Governor, HB-1416 reads:
Some Young Children Get Too Much Fluoride
THE FLUORIDATION of public water systems in the U.S. since 1945 is often hailed as one of the great public-health advances of the century. Today, many children reach adulthood without a single cavity. But now health researchers are questioning whether Americans, particularly children, may have too much fluoride in their diets. The
The Iowa Fluoride Study: Fluoride, Teeth, and Developing Bone
In the early 1990s, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a large grant to University of Iowa researchers to investigate the relationship between total daily fluoride intake (from all sources) and several health outcomes of interest, namely: tooth decay, dental fluorosis, and bone health. Known as the “Iowa Fluoride Study,” the
The Fluorosis Risk: Infant Formula Made with Fluoridated Water
Babies who ingest infant formula made with fluoridated water have a significantly elevated risk of developing dental fluorosis in their permanent teeth. The fluorosis caused by infant exposure will generally appear on the child's front teeth, the teeth most likely to embarrass and cause anxiety for the child if they have fluorosis stains. The following
"Mild" Dental Fluorosis: Perceptions & Psychological Impact
The vast majority of research has found that patients, parents, and the general public alike view mild fluorosis (TF score 3) as a significant blemish of the teeth, one that is likely to embarrass the affected child to a degree that cosmetic treatment would be warranted.
Table 23: Enamel fluorosis among persons aged 6-39; MMWR, 2005
The following table comes from: Surveillance for Dental Caries, Dental Sealants, Tooth Retention, Edentulism, and Enamel Fluorosis --- United States, 1988--1994 and 1999—2002. MMWR, August 26, 2005 / 54(03);1-44.
Top 10 Ways to Reduce Fluoride Exposure
The following 10 tips will allow you to significantly reduce your daily exposure to fluoride. 1) Stop Drinking Fluoridated Water: Tap water consumption is, on average, the largest daily source of fluoride exposure for people who live in areas that add fluoride to the water. Avoiding consumption of fluoridated water is especially
Fluoride Intake from Toothpaste vs. Recommended Daily Intake from All Sources
For many children, fluoride toothpaste is the largest source of fluoride intake. One strip of fluoridated toothpaste on a child-sized toothbrush contains between 0.75 and 1.5 mg of fluoride, which is more fluoride than is found in many prescription fluoride supplements (0.25 to 1.0 mg per tablet). Since young children are
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