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    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.

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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