By Vishant Nath DMD
Fluoride levels in drinking water have been in the news lately. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed lowering the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water. This article will provide some perspective on this topic.
First and foremost it’s important to appreciate the importance of fluoride, especially for children. Fluoride inhibits the loss of minerals from tooth enamel and strengthens areas of the teeth that are weakened and are in danger of developing cavities. It also works to prevent bacteria from breaking down the teeth and causing cavities.
Too much unmonitored ingested fluoride during permanent teeth development (ages 3 months - 8years) can cause discoloration of the teeth, which is referred to as fluorosis. This condition can be mild (small white specks or streaks) to severe (brown discoloration) of the teeth. Certain techniques in esthetic dentistry can be used to improve the look of permanent teeth that exhibit signs of fluorosis.
Fluoride is added to many oral care products, including toothpaste and mouth rinses. Fluoride also occurs naturally to some deg ree in drinking water. When its oral health advantages were first identified 70 years ago, it was also noticed that a certain level of fluoride was necessary to see its benefits. Therefore, the government recommended artificially supplementing water sources with fluoride in areas where it was below this level. Since 1962, the Environmental Protection Agency has overseen the addition of fluoride to drinking water.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control has released data from studies indicating that the occurrence of fluorosis in children ages 12 to 15 have increased. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 95.8% of Georgia’s population is served by community water supplies that are fluoridated. The current fluoride level recommended by the state is 0.8 milligrams per liter of water, which is just slightly above the newly proposed level of 0.7 milligrams per liter. The Georgia Department of Community Health has stated that there will likely be very little adjustment necessary for the state since the current levels are so close to the newly recommended levels.
Another theory surrounding the increasing occurrence of fluorosis is that children may have be getting the higher exposure to fluoride by ingesting too much fluoride containing toothpaste (during the ages 3months- 8 years).) It is always necessary to closely oversee your child’s proper use of fluoride containing oral care products. Children only require a very small amount of toothpaste to clean their teeth. A rice-sized portion (or smear) of toothpaste is sufficient to adequately clean a child’s teeth.
If you have any questions regarding fluoride levels or the occurrence of fluorosis in your child, please contact your pediatric dentist.