Safety l Fluoridation Facts 49 27. What is dental fluorosis or enamel fluorosis? Answer. Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of the tooth enamel that only occurs when younger children consume too much fluoride, from all sources, over long periods when teeth are developing under the gums.36 In the United States, most commonly these changes are not readily apparent to the affected individual or casual observer and require a trained specialist to detect. This type of dental fluorosis found in the United States has no effect on tooth function and can make the teeth more resistant to decay.67 Photographs of mild dental fluorosis can be viewed at center/oral-health-topics/fluoride-topical-and- systemic-supplements. (Note that mild dental fluorosis is generally less evident than on these photographs. This is because the teeth were dried very well to improve the photography and this makes the mild dental fluorosis stand out, but if the tooth had saliva on it as it usually does, then it would be less noticeable.) Fact. The crown of the tooth (the part covered in enamel) is formed under the gums before the teeth erupt. Enamel formation of permanent teeth, other than third molars (wisdom teeth), occurs from about the time of birth until approximately eight years of age.68 Because dental fluorosis occurs only while teeth are forming under the gums, teeth that have erupted are not at risk for dental fluorosis therefore, older children and adults are not at risk for the development of dental fluorosis.69 It should be noted that there are many other developmental changes that affect the appearance of tooth enamel which are not related to fluoride intake. In other words, not all opaque or white blemishes on teeth are caused by fluoride. Furthermore, dental fluorosis occurs among some people in all communities, even in communities that do not have community water fluoridation, or that have a low natural concentration of fluoride in their drinking water.70-72 Classification of Dental Fluorosis Dental fluorosis has been classified in a number of ways. One of the most widely used classifications was developed by Dean in 1942.73 (See Table 3.) In using Dean’s Fluorosis Index, each tooth in an individual’s mouth is rated according to the fluorosis index in Table 3. The individual’s dental fluorosis score is based upon the most severe form of fluorosis recorded for two or more teeth. Dean’s Fluorosis Index, which has been used since 1942, remains popular for prevalence studies in large part due to its simplicity and the ability to make comparisons with findings from a number of earlier studies.74 In 2010, a report by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics described the prevalence and changes in prevalence and severity of dental fluorosis in the United States and among adolescents between 1986–1987 and 1999–2004.75 According to the report, in 1999 to 2004, 40.7% of adolescents had dental fluorosis. It should be noted that dental fluorosis can occur not only from fluoride intake from water but also from fluoride products, such as toothpaste, mouthrinses and excessive use of fluoride supplements during the ages when teeth are forming. A 1994 analysis of five studies showed that the amount of dental fluorosis attributable to water fluoridation at 1.0 mg/L was approximately 13%.76 In other words, at that time the amount of dental fluorosis would have been reduced by only 13% if water was not fluoridated. Now it would be less of a reduction, since fluoridation uses the lower level of 0.7 mg/L. The majority of dental fluorosis in the U.S. is caused by the inappropriate ingestion of fluoride products.76 The vast majority of dental fluorosis in the United States is the very mild or mild type. This type of dental fluorosis is not readily apparent to the affected individual or casual observer and often requires a trained specialist to detect. In contrast, the moderate and severe forms of dental fluorosis, characterized by esthetically (cosmetically) objectionable changes in tooth color and surface irregularities, respectively, are not common in the United States. Most investigators regard even the more advanced forms of dental fluorosis as a cosmetic effect rather than a functional adverse effect.40 In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a decision supported by the U.S. Surgeon General, determined that objectionable dental fluorosis is a cosmetic effect with no known health effects.77 However, in 2003, the EPA requested that the National Research Council (NRC) evaluate the adequacy of its MCLG for fluoride to protect public health. A committee was convened to review recent evidence and eventually developed the 2006 report titled, Fluoride in Drinking Water A Scientific Review of the EPA’s Standards.9 As part of that report, a majority of the committee members found severe dental fluorosis to be an adverse health
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