What is Fluorosis?


A Resource for Parents and Caregivers

Fluoride is an important mineral for all children. Our mouths contain bacteria that convert sugars in the foods and beverages we consume to produce an acid that harms our teeth. Fluoride protects our teeth. But too much fluoride can cause something called dental fluorosis.


What is dental fluorosis?

Dental fluorosis is a slight change in the look of the teeth, usually in the form of very faint white markings. It normally does not affect the function of the teeth or cause pain.

Does all dental fluorosis look the same?

No. Dental professionals who examine the enamel of teeth under special lighting can determine whether fluorosis is present. They may use the word “normal” if there is no fluorosis. If fluorosis is present, they will use mild, moderate or severe to describe it. Mild forms of fluorosis are barely noticeable and difficult to see except by a dental professional. Moderate or severe forms of fluorosis are rare in the United States. Only about 3% of Americans have these forms of fluorosis.

What causes dental fluorosis?

Most fluorosis is the result of consuming too much fluoride before the age of 8, while permanent (adult) teeth are still forming. Be sure kids learn to spit out toothpaste, not swallow.


How much fluoride does my child need to protect their teeth?

Children who consume a typical diet, drink fluoridated water, and use fluoridated dental products properly will get the fluoride they need for healthy teeth.

How do I know if my child has dental fluorosis?

Since there are many possible causes of variation in the appearance of the teeth, you may want to see a dental professional to have the teeth checked for fluorosis or other issues. Mild and moderate forms of fluorosis tend to become less visible over time.


For more information, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Dental Fluorosis.


How Do I Protect My Child’s Teeth Without Causing Fluorosis?

Here are three things you can do:

1. Make sure kids use dental products as recommended.

  • Kids should use fluoridated toothpaste twice a day (a “smear” for children under 3 and a “pea-sized” amount for children older than 3.)
  • Children under the age of 6 should not use mouthwash and mouthrinse.
  • Make sure kids know to spit, not swallow, excess toothpaste.



2. Make sure your child drinks water with fluoride


3. Start regular visits to the dentist by your child’s first birthday.

  • If you do not have a dentist yet, your child’s doctor can refer you to one. The doctor can also check your child’s teeth, talk to you about taking care of their oral health, and make sure they are getting enough fluoride.




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