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Keywords:

  • dental fluorosis;
  • fluorides

Abstract Based on studies in Northern Tanzania a new classification system of dental fluorosis is proposed. The classification system includes 10 scores designed to characterize the degree of dental fluorosis affecting buccal/lingual and occlusal surfaces. With aid of polarized and ordinary light microscopy the histologic features behind the individual scores are described. The macroscopic appearance of increasing degrees of dental fluorosis were well correlated to the degree of subsurface porosity. Above a certain level of subsurface hypomineralization various degrees of loss of surface enamel occurred, presumably as a result of posteruptively acquired injuries. Application of the new classification system to samples of children born in areas with 3.5, 6.0 and 21.0 parts/106 F- in the water supplies revealed that the distribution of dental fluorosis within the individual followed the same pattern irrespective of fluoride concentration in the water. While the classical Dean index was unable to distinguish between dental fluorosis in the 6.0 and the 21.0 parts/106 area it was possible with the new system to disclose that particularly the posterior teeth were significantly more affected in the latter area. Comparisons of degree of dental fluorosis with available measurements of enamel thickness proved that the within-tooth as well as within-dentition variations are determined by enamel thickness rather than length of exposure to body fluids. The limitations of the Dean index are discussed with special attention to its validity as a biological index in relation to current efforts to determine the minimal toxic effect of fluoride on the dental hard tissues.