For years dentists have been recommending fluoride to help in the prevention of cavities. It's in almost all toothpastes, many mouth rinses, over the counter and prescription gels-and almost 70% of Americans have it in their drinking water. Dental professionals credit fluoride for drastically reducing the level of tooth decay over the last few decades.
Fluoride is a mineral that exists naturally in soil and water. About 70 years ago it was discovered that people who lived in areas where the water supply had more fluoride had fewer cavities. Today, most public drinking water supplies are fluoridated, especially in larger cities- a fact that dentists applaud.
But can there be too much of a good thing?
A recent government study found that two in five adolescents has some sort of streaking or spotting on their teeth due to too much fluoride, a number that has grown since the 1980s.
For most people the streaking or spotting is totally harmless and barely visible to the naked eye, although in severs cases the tooth enamel can actually have a pitted surface. Even though the fluoride does a great job of preventing cavities, like most things in medicine, there can be side effects.
Now for the good news- as a result of this study the federal government has acted very quickly to change their recommendation for the optimal amount of fluoride in drinking water. The standard is now 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, down from the old figure of 1.2 milligrams. This figure maintains the level of cavity protection while lowering the chances of side effects. We are thrilled that the government moved so rapidly to lower the recommended water fluoridation levels to prevent further problems.
"One of water fluoridation's biggest advantages is that it benefits all the residents of a community-at home, work, school or play. And fluoridation's effectiveness in preventing tooth decay is not limited to children, but extends throughout life, resulting in improved oral health," said Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services.
So keep brushing, flossing and drinking fluoridated water. It's also important to keep up with your regular dental visits. We will be glad to check your teeth for any streaking or spotting, as well as for cavities and any other problems. As with any dental conditions, early detection makes it easier and less costly to treat. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 1-708-386-6517. We want to keep you smiling!