As you examine your smile in the mirror, it’s human nature to focus on what you don’t like more than what you do. We seem to be conditioned to focus on our flaws, actual or perceived, rather than our strengths. Nowhere is that more true than when looking at a potential flaw in our smile, which is the anchor of our public face and tied to all our interpersonal interactions. Less than perfectly pearly whites is commonly a cause of concern.
What the Heck Are Those White Lines?
Do you notice some faint white lines across your teeth, at basically the same level across all the teeth with white lines? You may have fluorosis.
What is Fluorosis, Anyway?
Dental fluorosis is a condition that results from ingesting too much fluoride while the teeth are developing. Dental fluorosis is not a disease. It is a developmental disturbance. That means that it happens while the teeth are growing, but it will not require further treatment to stop it from spreading.
In general, fluorosis is cosmetic. The teeth that have unpleasant looking white spots are considered no more likely to develop cavities. In severe cases where the teeth are brown and pitted, it’s sometimes hard to properly clean the teeth. Severe cases occur in less than 1% of patients with fluorosis; moderate cases make up only about 2%. Most cases are extremely mild or mild and treatment aims to improve the appearance of the teeth (source).
So What Can I do About Fluorosis?
The best thing you can do is avoid it in the first place. Since the condition develops during early childhood, it’s important for parents to be vigilant. If you live in a community that adds fluoride to its drinking water, don’t overconsume fluoride fortified juice, sports drinks, or bottled water. Take fluoride supplements only as prescribed by your healthcare team. Supervise children with brushing and oral rinses to make sure they don’t swallow the products. This may mean switching to a toothpaste they are less fond of to reduce the temptation to eat the product.
Once fluorosis develops, the aim of treating fluorosis is to improve how it looks so you can fall (back) in love with your smile. Usually, tooth whitening, either in office or at home, will help blend the tooth surface colors and lessen the streaky appearance. Sometimes, patients will prefer more extensive treatment with microabrasion, bonding, or veneers. With these treatments, a remineralizing toothpaste is usually beneficial to help treat sensitivity or to help fill in the white spots with addition minerals.
An Important Parting Note:
It’s important to have a dentist evaluate any white spots on your teeth, because they do not all stem from the same cause and do not all respond to or need the same kinds of treatment. White spots on the teeth, particularly those that start at the gumline, can be early cavities and require treatment and are a disease.