Dental fluorosis is a tooth defect that is caused by excessive intake of fluorides in the drinking water. Although the permanent teeth are affected, occasionally even the primary teeth may be involved.
What are the symptoms?
It is easy to recognize dental fluorosis. Initially there may be a few white flecks or small pits on the enamel of the teeth. Later there may be brown stains. Dental fluorosis and dental caries seem to go hand in hand.
What is the cause?
Dental fluorosis occurs in children who are exposed to a high intake of fluoride before the teeth fully mineralise, that is before 12-14 years of age. In one district of Kerala, nearly 40% of school children were found to have fluorosis. The disease is more prevalent in rural areas where drinking water is derived from shallow wells or hand pumps. The disease is more likely to occur in areas where the drinking water has a fluoride content of more than 1ppm (part per million), and in children who have a poor intake of calcium.
How can it be prevented?
The only effective public health measure is to limit the fluoride content of drinking water to below 0.5 ppm (parts per million), by using deep bore drinking water supplies. An adequate daily intake of calcium is also protective.