Using fluoride in drinking water has been debated since its first use in US more than 50 years ago. This issue has resurfaced after Portland, Oregon decided to implement water fluoridation back in 2014. Before this time, Portland was the only large city in USA not having fluoride in their drinking water. What exactly is fluoride, and how much of it is contained in the water that comes out of the tap? Here are some facts about water fluoridation that you should know.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and it is known to strengthen the tooth enamel as well as prevent dental cavities.
Why is fluoride routinely added to public water supplies?
Almost all naturally occurring water sources contain fluoride but its level is too low to effectively prevent the teeth from decaying. Over 70 years ago, scientists began to perform tests in order to find out if adjusting the concentration of fluoride in water would enhance the general oral hygiene of the society. This project was referred to as community water fluoridation.
In the 1930s, it was noted that the severity and occurrence of tooth decay was much lower among people whose water contained higher level of natural fluoride which made other cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan to start adding fluoride to their water supply. Today, over 204 million people in the United States of America alone live in places where fluoride is added in the water supply.
How safe and effective is water fluoridation?
According to research, fluoride has been proven to reduce tooth decay by about 25% and water fluoridation is named among the 10 greatest public health inventions of the 20th century. The sources of fluoride have also increased to include certain dental products such as mouthwash and toothpaste, professionally applied fluoride products like gels and varnish, and prescription fluoride supplements. In the year 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that the level of fluoride in the water supply be lowered to 0.7mg per liter of water. Previously, the fluoride content ranged from 0.7mg-1.2mg per liter of water.
After a careful study of the communities whose water supply was fluoridated, it can be stated that indeed fluoride is effective in preventing tooth decay and cavities.
Argument Against Fluoridation
Though most of the water supplies in the USA are fluoridated, the risks and benefits of having fluoridated water are still debated.
There has been an argument where critics states that adding fluoride to water can lead to certain health conditions, the most common one being dental fluorosis; a condition that is caused by intake of excess fluoride. It leads to teeth discoloration and
streaks on the teeth. Other studies suggest that there is a link between brain damage, fractures, cancer and fluoride though no clear connection has been found.
According to Dr. Chris Mott, a downtown Shreveport dentist, the recommended amount of fluoride should provide an adequate level of mineral salt that helps to reduce tooth decay in both children and adults as well as minimize dental fluorosis. If you have any questions concerning water fluoridation and dental health, please contact our office. Dr. Mott would be more than happy to discuss this issue with you further.