FRIDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. government officials
said Friday that the amount of fluoride in the nation's drinking
water should now be set at the lowest recommended level.
Although fluoride is a significant help in preventing cavities
and tooth decay, too much of it can cause unattractive spotting on
children's teeth. About two out of five teens have white spots and
streaks on their teeth due to too much fluoride, according to a
recent government study.
To prevent this problem, the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are
recommending that the fluoride level in drinking water be set at
0.7 milligrams per liter of water, replacing the current
recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.
"One of water fluoridation's biggest advantages is that it benefits all residents of a community -- at home, work, school, or play," HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard K. Koh said in a statement. "Today's announcement is part of our ongoing support of appropriate fluoridation for community water systems, and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay throughout one's lifetime."
One reason for the new recommendation is that over the years the
sources of fluoride have increased from water to include
toothpastes, mouth wash, fluoride supplements and fluoride applied
by dentists, EPA and HHS officials noted.
According to the agencies, this new recommendation allows the
maximum prevention of tooth decay through fluoridation, while
reducing the possibility of children getting too much fluoride.
Overexposure to fluoride results in a condition known as
fluorosis, which can damage children's developing teeth.
In the United States fluorosis is usually mild, seen as barely
visible lacy white markings or spots on the enamel. The severe form
of fluorosis, which causes staining and pitting of the tooth
surface, is rare here, but is more common in places like China
where the water has naturally occurring levels of fluoride.
A spokesman for the American Dental Association, Dr. Matthew
Messina, said these government agencies are doing their job in
recommending what community water supplies are supposed to do.
"They have just refined from a range and provided a more exact direction," Messina said. "We are excited that they continue to advocate the safety and effectiveness of fluoride and its value as a public health measure in preventing dental decay."
Messina noted that fluoride occurs naturally in water and
different places have different levels of fluoride. Some towns may
not have to add any fluoride and others only a little to reach the
recommended level, he said.
"Fluoride is one of the best returns on investment as far as the small amount of money spent on fluoridating water relative to the tremendous reduction in the cost of having cavities," Messina said.
Dr. Leo Dorado, an assistant professor of oral surgery at the
University of Miami, said that each locality needs to tailor adding
fluoride to water to achieve the right level.
Dorado is concerned that too much fluoride can cause fluorosis
in young children. "I don't think the standard has been enforced
state by state," he said. "It's not just an easy fix. It is
something that has to be regulated according to government
standards, but state by state," he said.
For more information on fluoride, visit the
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