Background: Scientists have noted an association between mottled enamel and fluoride exposure since the early 1900s. By the mid-1900s, they also recognized that fluoride intake was related to lower caries incidence. To harness the protective effect of fluoride while limiting the occurrence of fluorosis, dental researchers have recommended that the fluoride level in chinking water be 1 part per million or less.
Overview: Despite the recognition that fluoride levels in water can be controlled to offer caries protection with minimal risk of fluorosis, the cosmetic defect continues to appear. However, although the word "fluorosis" conjures up images of brown stained and pitted enamel, such severe cases rarely are seen in the United States. Children in this country are exposed to fluoride from numerous sources and the appearance of mild fluorosis is not unusual.
Conclusions and practice implications: In most cases, fluorosis is a minor cosmetic defect that should not be cause for alarm. Dentists should educate their patients about the optimal range of fluoride intake for caries protection, sources of fluoride and the possibility of fluorosis.