dental fluorosis

Dental fluorosis causes, risk factors, and management in Kenya

Dental fluorosis is a condition that affects the development of tooth enamel, causing it to become discolored and pitted. It is caused by excessive exposure to fluoride, most commonly from drinking water.

In Kenya, dental fluorosis is a significant public health problem, affecting millions of people. The first and only Kenya National Oral Health Survey 2015 reported a high oral disease burden putting the overall prevalence of dental fluorosis in the country at 41%.

Causes of dental fluorosis

The main cause of dental fluorosis in Kenya is excess fluoride in drinking water. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many rocks and soils. In some parts of Kenya (such as the Rift Valley region), the fluoride levels in groundwater are naturally high.

Other sources of fluoride exposure include:

  • Ingestion of fluoride toothpaste
  • Use of fluoride tablets
  • Cooking food with salty water
  • Brushing teeth with fluoridated water/salty water
  • Excessive intake of fluoride supplements

Risk factors

Certain factors can increase the risk of developing dental fluorosis. In particular, age plays a crucial part. Children are more susceptible to fluorosis than adults. Notably, borehole water with high levels of fluoride has irreversible damage to children’s teeth from age 0 to 8 years.

Management of fluorosis

Once the teeth are already affected by fluorosis, they appear brown, sometimes black with chippings on the surfaces.

Dental fluorosis is managed either by:

  • Direct Masking, or
  • Indirect Composite Veneers

Direct masking is when a white composite filling material is placed on the stain to “mask” it. Some people call it coating. This coat makes the tooth white and prevents it from chipping some more. It is recommended for children since their teeth are still developing.

The challenge with masking is it chips and discolors therefore it needs regular touch-ups and polishing twice a year.

At ages 16 to 18, your dentist can transition them to Ceramic Dental Veneers. They are superior and more permanent with little worry of getting stained or discoloured since they are stain-resistant.

Prevention of dental fluorosis

Fluorosis is a significant public health problem in Kenya. However, there are a number of things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing this condition. By taking steps to reduce your child’s over-exposure to fluoride, you can help protect their teeth and their overall oral health. If you need to consult with a professional about fluorosis or any other oral-health-related issue, our team would love to serve you.

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