Earlier this year, the United States decreased nationwide water fluoridation levels to 0.7 parts per million for the first time since 1962, which was when fluoridation level standards were first set. Originally varying from 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million depending on location, the new 0.7 parts per million standard is being implemented because, “some people are getting too much fluoride because it is also now put in toothpaste, mouthwash and other products,” US health officials said to the press. “Too much fluoride has become a common cause of white splotches on teeth in children. One study found about two out of five adolescents had tooth streaking or spottiness.”
This new information has reinvigorated the debate over fluoridation in municipal water supplies. Proponents of fluoridation credit fluoride with the reduction of cavities in children and better dental health. “Grand Rapid, Michigan, became the world’s first city to add fluoride to its drinking water in 1945. Six years later, a study found a dramatic decline in tooth decay among children there, and the US Surgeon General endorsed water fluoridation,” the UK’s Guardian noted in April this year.
Fluoridated water supplies are a timely issue in the UK where dentists are “deeply disturbed” and concerned about a growing tooth extraction crisis. According to a study published in the Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology “500 five to nine-year-olds are admitted to hospital each week with tooth decay” resulting in painful extractions. Their research also found, “areas where fluoride was added to the water saw extractions fall by 55 percent.”
Despite all the research that validates the use of fluoride to benefit oral health, opponents claim fluoridation is linked to a “number of health conditions including brain impairment in children, liver and kidney disease, and crippling bone disorders.” The UK based study also debunks these myths and asserts there are no adverse health effects for children who consume fluoridated water.
Canada’s water fluoridation started in 1945, when Brantford, Ontario became the first Canadian municipality to introduce fluoride to their local water supply. A national standard of 1.5 milligrams per liter was set by Health Canada to assure uniformity and maximum benefit. It is estimated that 76 percent of Ontarians now enjoy the benefits of fluoride and 45 percent of all Canadians have access to fluoridated water in their homes.
Like many dentists, despite the extended arguments for and against water fluoridation, Dr. Ross Chiaramonte, a practicing dentist at River Side West Dental clinic in Owen Sound, Canada, supports fluoridation in municipal water supplies and reminds us of fluoridation’s benefits to one’s teeth.
“Fluoride keeps the enamel of the tooth strong and solid by preventing the loss of important minerals by stopping or even reversing the tooth decay process,” Dr. Ross Chiaramonte explains.
Fluoridated water also happens to reduce the burden on medical systems for countries with universal health care programs. Dr. Chiaramonte notes that he has read studies where dental related costs were dramatically reduced in cities and towns that had implemented fluoridated water versus those that did not.
“Not only do children need fluoride protection while their teeth are developing, adults need it to prevent cavities as well,” Dr. Ross Chiaramonte adds. “Adding fluoride to public drinking water is still the most economical means of giving the benefits of fluoride to all members of the community.”
Image souce: Wikimedia Commons