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Dental fluorosis

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in foods and drinks such as fish and tea. It is also present in varying concentrations in all natural water.

Fluoride has been added to some drinking water supplies in Ireland to bring the concentration up to a level that protects against dental decay. This has been done for almost 60 years.

The use of fluoride in Ireland

In Ireland, fluoride is currently adjusted to a level between.O.6 and 0.8 parts per million.(MG per litre)

Fluoride treatments

Fluoride in toothpaste is also very effective and should be used once a child reaches 2 years of age unless otherwise advised by your dentist.Use a small pea -sized amount and ensure that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Over the past 50 years, extensive research has been conducted into the health benefits of fluoride. The main benefit of fluoride is that it strengthens tooth enamel (the outer surface of the tooth), which provides protection against tooth decay.

Protecting against tooth decay

Flouride protects teeth againset tooth decay at all ages of life. In Ireland , around 70% of the water supplies contain flouride at levels which can provide protection for the teeth. Flouride is also widely available in toothpastes, and can be professionally applied by your dentist or dental hygienist.

Although it is beneficial for everyone, fluoride is particularly important for children when their teeth are developing.

Fluoride protects teeth by strengthening the outer layer (enamel), making their teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that can cause tooth decay. It reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid and enhances the repair (remineralisation) of enamel. 

If children have fluoride when their teeth are developing, the grooves in their teeth are usually shallower, making plaque easier to remove.

Dental care for children

  • Flouride in toothpaste can be used when a child is 2 years of age.Use a small pea-sized amount and ensure that the child does not swallow the toothpaste.
  • Children should be supervised when brushing their teeth until they are about seven.

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

In recent years, there have been some concerns that fluoride may be linked to a variety of health-related problems, such as bone cancer.

The Medical Research Council has looked at all the available research and confirmed that there is no increased risk of any adverse health effects, including bone cancer, from artificially fluoridated water. For more information, see the Medical Research Council's 2002 report Water Fluoridation and Health.

Since 2002 there have been a number of reviews carried out in the United States, Australia and in the European Union which have also shown no link between fluoridation and any unwanted health effect. The most recent review was carried out in 2011 by the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) of the European Commission.

Dental fluorosis

Dental fluorosis is a condition that can occur if teeth are exposed to too much fluoride when they are developing.

The condition may develop if fluoride supplements are taken by children under seven years of age who live in areas where the water supply is fluoridated.

In its mildest form, dental fluorosis appears as very fine pearly white lines or flecking on the surface of the teeth. Mild fluorosis can often only be detected by a dental expert.

Severe fluorosis may lead to pitting of the enamel and discolouration. However, severe dental fluorosis is rare in Ireland.

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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