For several decades, community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay; however, it can be too much of a good thing. Fluorosis, or a spotting of the teeth, can occur when levels are too high. The US Department of Health and Human Services will announce plans today to recalibrate the ratio of fluoride to water to a more optimal level.
Tooth Spotting and Pitting Becoming More Common in Adolescents
Fluorosis has been found to become increasingly more common since the 1980s, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 2 out of 5 adolescents aged 12 to 15 have tooth streaking or spottiness because of too much fluoride. In some extreme cases, teeth can even be pitted by the mineral.
About 65-70% of Americans drink fluoridated water. Most public drinking water supplies are fluoridated, especially in larger cities. Maryland has the most residents drinking fluoridated water; Hawaii has the least.
Fluoridated water isn’t the only source of fluoride for many kids. Toothpaste, of course, contains the mineral, and some children (particularly those with well water or who live in communities without fluoridation) are given fluoride supplements. Even some food and drink can contain fluoride, such as processed chicken and soft drinks.
The Department of Health and Human Services will recommend that the optimal level for fluoridated water be set at 0.7 milligrams per liter of water. The standard since 1962 has been a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter. The adjustment will provide an effective level of fluoride for cavity protection while minimizing the rate of fluorosis in the general population.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also review data to determine a maximum level of the mineral, which is thought to be around 4 milligrams per liter.
The American Dental Association is one group that applauds the agencies’ efforts to recalibrate the fluoride levels in community drinking water. “This is a superb example of a government agency fulfilling its mission to protect and enhance the health of the American people,” says ADA President Raymond F. Gist DDS.
“Water fluoridation is one of our most potent weapons in disease prevention,” Dr. Gist says in an ADA press release. “We want as many people as possible to have the benefits of this simple, safe, inexpensive, and proven health care measure.”
To find out if your community is meeting the optimal fluoride levels for public drinking water, visit the CDC’s website for an interactive map.