You may have seen articles around the Internet noting that the United States Department of Health and Human Services recently lowered their recommended levels for drinking water fluoridation. At first, this may seem like a startling headline. Why would they need to lower their recommendations? Were the levels unsafe before? In reality, there is no reason for concern. The levels of fluoridation in the United States have always been at a safe and therapeutic value.
Previously, the DHHS recommended that fluoride levels were kept within a range between 0.7-1.2 milligrams per liter of water. Under the new guidelines, fluoride levels should be calibrated to a set value of 0.7 milligrams per liter. This change reflects improvements in dental public health services and the increased prevalence of fluoride toothpaste use across the United States. As more and more people (mainly children) are actively using fluoridated dental products, the need for fluoride in water is lessened.
At the current (and historic) levels of fluoride in drinking water, the main concern is the development of fluorosis. Fluorosis is the appearance of white marks or lines on teeth as the result of excessive fluoride exposure during the first 8 years of life. While this may sound alarming, have no fear. Fluorosis is a purely cosmetic condition. In actually, it was difficult to develop this condition before the new guidelines, and will be even tougher now. It is also important to note that the United States has never recommended fluoridation levels that could lead to toxicity.
Fluoride has been an invaluable tool in providing large populations increased protection against tooth decay. As such, the CDC has named community water fluoridation as one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century. If you would like to know more about fluoride, its safety, or how it works, please call our office. We are always happy to keep our patients educated on current events in dentistry!