What is fluorosis?

Fluorosis is a condition caused by excessive intake of fluoride. This condition can manifest as skeletal fluorosis, which means it attacks the bones of the body, or dental fluorosis, sometimes called enamel fluorosis. The damage caused by fluorosis is permanent, which makes prevention very important in regions of the world where the problem is endemic, such as China and India. Fluorosis appears to be especially common in the developing world, for a variety of reasons, but it can also appear in the West.

As a general rule of thumb, someone needs to consume 10 times the recommended daily intake of fluoride over a long period of time for fluorosis to develop. Dental fluorosis usually appears before the skeletal form, which may allow medical professionals to detect the problem early. Excess fluoride can come from fluoride pollution, inhalation of fluoride dust and fumes, highly fluoridated water, supplements, excessive tea consumption, and consumption of fluoridated toothpaste.

Dental fluorosis begins with small marks and stains on the teeth, sometimes accompanied by a slight transparency of the tooth enamel. If the condition is allowed to progress, the teeth will become pitted, cracked and brittle. If dental fluorosis is identified, the patient is usually given information about the sources of fluoride so that she can learn to avoid them, and the teeth may be capped or capped for cosmetic reasons and to protect them from further damage.

The skeletal form of fluorosis causes brittle bones and joint pain. It can be difficult to identify because the bones are not easily visible and because other conditions can cause similar problems. In regions of the world where fluorosis is endemic, these symptoms are often considered a sign that a patient has the condition, while in areas where the condition is rarer, it can take a while to get to the bottom of the problem. Sometimes x-rays can be used to visualize the bones.

Fluoride is an important dietary supplement that has been shown to be very effective in preventing cavities in numerous studies. The fact that fluorosis exists is not a reason to stop using fluoride in dental care, but it is a reason to be careful. People with a naturally higher fluoride intake due to their diet should be aware of fluorosis and consider using filters that can help remove fluorides in the water. In the West, where water is typically fluoridated along with toothpaste and other dental care products, people may avoid fluoride supplements unless advised to take them by a dentist or doctor.

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