The aim of this project was to study the prevalence and severity of dental fluorosis among persons exposed to moderate- to high– or low-fluoride drinking water in western Norway, and to assess the risk factors involved. Subjects aged 5 to 18 years who had been lifelong consumers of moderate- to high-fluoride groundwater (> or = 0.50 mg F/L) were selected for the study (n = 113). A comparison group (n = 105) was chosen among consumers of low-fluoride surface water (approximately 0.10 mg F/L) in the same district. The Thylstrup-Fejerskov (TF) Index was used to score dental fluorosis. A questionnaire was used to obtain information on fluoride exposure and other relevant factors. Among the consumers of low-fluoride water 14.3% showed dental fluorosis (TF score 1-2) as compared to 78.8% in the group consuming moderate- to high-fluoride water (TF scores 1-7). Premolars were most frequently affected, but severe cases (TF scores 3-7) were equally prevalent in maxillary central incisors and first molars. In logistic regression analysis with TF score 0 or TF score > or = 1 as the dependent variable, only fluoride concentration in the drinking water was associated with a statistically increased risk of dental fluorosis (odds ratio: 18.9; 95% CI: 8.85-40.44). In the study area, which was characterised by multiple fluoride sources, uncontrolled groundwater with moderate to high fluoride content was the most important factor in the development of dental fluorosis. In order to prevent dental fluorosis, groundwater wells should routinely be analysed for fluoride.