July 18, 2018
You know dentists and other dental experts recommend fluoride as a way to prevent cavities. But you may also have seen alarmist articles on the internet that link fluoridated water to lots of serious health conditions.
Do you need to be concerned about the presence of fluoride in your family’s water? In most cases, no. The benefits of fluoridated water far outweigh the potential downsides.That said, we recommend being careful with fluoride consumption for children ages 3 and under.
Whether or not they drink fluoridated water, some members of your family may be at greater risk of tooth decay. If so, we may recommend topical applications of fluoride in our Boone, NC dentist office. If you have any questions about fluoride, call Appalachian Dental Care at 828-355-5673.
How Fluoride Helps Fight Tooth Decay
Fluoride comes from the chemical element fluorine. It fights decay by preventing the acid produced by bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel. In addition, fluoride helps teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, themselves. It can’t fix cavities, but it stop low levels of tooth decay from forming cavities.
Fluoridated Water Called a Great Public Health Achievement
Fluoride occurs naturally in some water supplies. Where it doesn’t, many municipalities add it to their water to reduce the incidence of dental decay. The CDC considers fluoridated water one of 10 great public health achievements of the past century.
According to the CDC, about three-quarters of Americans get water that is fluoridated to the recommended level to help prevent tooth decay. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires public water systems to notify its customers if naturally occurring levels of fluoride in their water supply are more than 2.0 mg/L or parts per million. If you want to know more about the fluoride in your community’s water supply, you can check out My Water’s Fluoride, from the CDC’s website.
If you use well water or water from a private source, it’s a good idea to get your water tested every year. Your local or state Health and Human Services Department should be able to refer you to a certified laboratory in your area. Some communities also offer free water screenings.
If your bottled water comes from a fluoridated source, it will have fluoride. Some, but not all, water producers add additional fluoride. If so, they are required to list the amount of fluoride added on the label. If you’re interested, you can find a list of bottled water with fluoride on the international Bottled Water Association website.
Fluoride and Dental Fluorosis
If children consume too much fluoride while their teeth are forming, from fluoridated water or other sources, they can get a condition called dental fluorosis. It isn’t harmful, though it can affect the appearance of teeth, usually by causing faint white streaks to appear. Children are typically only at risk until around the age of 8.
Infants Need Less Fluoride
So when is fluoridated water a potential problem? Because infants need less fluoride than older kids or adults, you may want to use only water with low concentrations of fluoride to mix with powdered or liquid formula. Look for bottled water labeled de-ionized, purified, demineralized, or distilled. Other options for avoiding fluoride include breast feeding or using ready-to-feed formula.
Watch Your Child’s Toothpaste Intake
Fluoridated water isn’t the only source of fluoride that may prove problematic for kids. Swallowing toothpaste, especially in large amounts, is a bigger problem. Make sure that young children use only a very small amount of toothpaste: no larger than a grain of rice for kids younger than 3 and no larger than a pea for ages 3-6. Don’t use fluoride rinses for children younger than 6 since they may swallow it instead of spitting it out.
While fluoride is nothing to fear, it makes sense to find out more about the amount of fluoride in your water and to monitor the usage of products containing fluoride in your youngest family members. We’re happy to answer your questions about fluoride, or anything else concerning your family’s dental health. Call Appalachian Dental Care at 828-355-5673.