As parents, we are continuously looking for ways to give our children the healthiest lifestyle. If you’ve ever searched for information about fluoride in our local tap water, chances are you’ve seen conflicting information about it’s need, safety, and effectiveness.
As a father of five, a Pediatric Dentist, and someone who drinks fluoride in Weber and Davis county tap water, I want to add my perspective and what I have learned over my years of learning and practicing dentistry.
Why is fluoride in Weber and Davis County tap water?
Fluoride’s effect on teeth was discovered in 1901 and studied in Colorado Springs. The people there had severely stained, but cavity-free teeth. This was due to local water sources having high levels of naturally occurring fluoride. Since that time, other areas with naturally-occurring fluoride have been studied and populations were found to have very strong teeth and few cavities.
This and other research has since led to cities adding fluoride in municipal water, starting with Grand Rapids Michigan in 1945. The American Dental Association currently recommends 0.7 parts per million, an amount that prevents cavities and doesn’t stain teeth. Optimal fluoridation levels are great for developing teeth and adult teeth— reducing cavities in baby teeth up to 35% and in permanent teeth up to 26%.
What does fluoride do?
Fluoride incorporates into the outside layer of the tooth (the enamel) and forms a crystal structure called Fluorohydroxyapatite. This strengthens the enamel, making it more resistant to weakening when exposed to cavity-causing bacteria and acid.
Fluoride in drinking water helps both a child’s erupted teeth or the ones that have not erupted yet. Fluoride that is swallowed helps developing teeth, while fluoride in toothpaste and varnish applied at our office helps teeth visible in your mouth.
Is it toxic?
Many critics of fluoride in tap water cite it’s toxicity in high doses and possible correlation to lower IQ scores. Advocates argue it’s dental health benefits in both children and adults at low doses. With many opinions and our children’s health at stake, it’s easy to see how people sometimes get confused and don’t see eye to eye!
According to the best available scientific evidence, fluoridation of water at the recommended level is not toxic. Because toxicity is related to dose, large doses of fluoride could be toxic. Just like many common substances we are consuming daily – salt, iron, vitamins A and D, chlorine, oxygen and even water itself – fluoride can be toxic in massive quantities. Community water fluoridation at the much lower recommended concentrations (0.7 milligrams per liter, most often the fluoride in Weber and Davis County tap water) is not harmful or toxic.
Over the last decade, there have been a few studies published that correlated fluoride in tap water to low IQ scores. Some of this research was done in other countries, where fluoride levels are multiple times higher than they are in the US. Others were done with poorly controlled variables and their findings aren’t reliable.
Does my child need a fluoride vitamin supplement?
Many counties in Utah have fluoride in the tap water, depending on where you live and your water drinking habits, the answer will be different for everyone. If you live in an optimally fluoridated area like Davis County and your child drinks tap water, the answer is no! Your child doesn’t need any fluoride supplements. If you do not live in a fluoridated area, like Weber County, or your child doesn’t drink tap water, then your child could benefit from a prescription for fluoride tablets or drops.
If your child is small and still swallows his or her toothpaste, you may not need to consider fluoride supplements.
As always, if you have questions about fluoride, please talk with your friendly, neighborhood Moose Dentist for more information or a personalized recommendation for your child.