U.S. Wants to Reduce Fluoride in Drinking Water
Officials Call for Lower Fluoride Levels to Prevent Dental Problems Due to Excess Fluoride
Fluorosis Cases continued...
In the severe form, which is rare, according to HHS, there can be staining and pitting of the tooth surface.
The new HHS recommendation, Messina says, makes sense because in recent years the population has gotten more fluoride from other sources, such as toothpaste and mouthwashes.
At appropriate levels, he says, fluoride remains an effective cavity-fighter, Messina says. "We have a whole generation of kids who have almost no decay," he tells WebMD. "What a gift."
Meanwhile, scientists at the Environmental Working Group applaud the new recommendation but call it overdue. "It marks the government's belated recognition that many Americans are at risk from excess fluoride in drinking water and other sources," Jane Houlihan, EWG's senior vice president for research, told reporters during a telephone briefing.
Sources of Fluoride Exposure
Fluoridation was introduced into U.S. drinking water supplies in 1945. By 2008, 64% of the U.S. population had access to community water fluoridation, says the HHS.
But fluoride is now found not only in toothpaste and drinking water, according to HHS, but also in mouth rinses, prescription fluoride supplements, and fluoride treatments applied in dental offices. It's found in infant formulas prepared with fluoridated water and in other beverages.
But fluoride toothpaste along with fluoride in drinking water do deserve most of the credit for the decline in tooth decay in recent decades in the U.S., HHS officials emphasize.
As the fluoride intake has increased, however, so has the number of children with dental fluorosis.
According to the HHS, national surveys conducted from 1999 to 2004 show an upswing in the prevalence of the condition, although mostly in very mild or mild forms.
The condition was found more in younger people than older people, with about 41% of teens age 12 to 15 affected, the surveys found.
The effects of excess fluoride aren't just a dental concern, says Houlihan.
Some data suggest that excess fluoride may also be linked with skeletal bone damage, she says, and possibly hormone disruption. "It has also been deemed an emerging neurotoxin."
As a result, she suggests the entire family, not just those with children, may want to assess their fluoride exposure.