The US is set to lower the levels of fluoride in water supplies – the first change in nearly 50 years. While fluoride in the drinking water has been proven to reduce cavities and tooth decay, it can cause fluorosis in children. Fluorosis is an aesthetic problem of teeth where white and sometimes brown spots can present on teeth. A US government study found that two out of five adolescents have tooth streaking or spottiness because of too much fluoride. In some extreme cases, teeth can even be pitted – though most cases are very mild.
The prompt for the change has been the availability of fluoridated products and the changes in drinking habits. Current levels are 1 – 1.5 milligrams per litre of water (1 – 1.5 parts per million) and they would like to reduce that to 0.7 mg/L. In NSW, levels are around 0.9-1.5mg/L with the optimal level generally considered to be 1 mg/L. However, the percentage of teens with fluorosis has risen from 23% in 1987 to 41% in 2004. The prevalence of tooth decay in one tooth dropped from 90% to 60%. Health officials consider water fluoridation one of the 10 greatest public health accomplishments of the last century.
We still recommend the use of fluoride rinses and concentrated high fluoride toothpaste in high risk patients as this constant topical exposure is what protects the teeth. Ingestion of fluoride toothpastes must be avoided in children as they are the ones at risk. Parents must ensure that their child uses a low fluoride children’s toothpaste until about 6 years of age and rinses out after brushing.
There is no fluoride in most European water supplies. In Britain, only about 10 per cent of the population has water with fluoride in it. It’s been a controversial issue there, with critics arguing people shouldn’t be forced to have “medical treatment” forced on them. In recent years, the UK has tried to add fluoride to communities with the worst dental health but there’s still considerable opposition.
Some European nations used to add fluoride to water supplies but have stopped. Some countries add it to salt instead.
If you are at all concerned about the level of fluoride your child is receiving, please contact the office and we can assess the appropriate level for their age.