PREMIER DENTAL N EWS L E T T E R
Why Is It in Our Drinking Water, and What Does It Do? THE STORY OF FLUORIDE In the early 1900s, dental researchers found that children in certain communities had teeth that were mottled brown but also highly resistant to dental decay. At that time, dental decay was a major cause of suffering for people of all ages, especially when the decay led to lingering infections. Scientists were eager to find a cause for this phenomenon, but there was no geographical significance shared by these communities, which included Colorado Springs, Colorado; Bauxite, Arkansas; and Oakley, Idaho. Research to find the cause began in 1901, but a breakthrough wouldn’t occur until 1931 when fluoride in the water was proven to cause this lack of dental decay. Scientists wanted to discover how high fluoride levels would need to be to prevent tooth decay and the undesirable mottled brown stain the children in these communities had. Soon, the level was determined to be 1 part per million (ppm). In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first city to add fluoride to its drinking water, and within that first year, the rate of tooth decay dropped by more than 60%. With this success rate, more communities adopted this practice, and today, 70% of all municipalities in the U.S. have fluoridated water. Fluoridation of drinking water has reached an estimated 144 million people in the U.S. and benefits both children and adults, regardless of socioeconomic status or access to care. It has resulted in a 40–70% reduction in tooth decay in children and a 40–60% reduction in tooth loss in adults. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed that the fluoridation of drinking water is one of the 10 best achievements in public health in the 20th century. Interestingly, the rate of decay began to increase again as bottled water gained more popularity in the 1980s, since most bottled water does not have fluoride.
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Still, some people have objected to having fluoride in public drinking water, indicating that it should be treated as medicine rather than a supplement. Some citizens are also concerned about the adverse effects of fluoride. For those of you concerned about exposure to excess fluoride, there are some options to help you avoid or diminish the amount you ingest. These include drinking bottled water, using a fluoride filter for tap water, and brushing with fluoride-free toothpaste. Frommy perspective, I know there is nothing as painful as a toothache, so I tend to think practically. I believe fluoride in small doses is very beneficial —most municipalities add fluoride to water at 0.50 to 0.75 ppm— and I often advise skeptics to consider what life was like pre-fluoridation of drinking water. Tooth decay caused major health problems for children and adults. There are far greater instances of tooth decay when a patient is not exposed to fluoride, and, to this day, tooth decay still causes major health problems. Being able to safely prevent it is a huge success for medical and dental science. But, as always, do your homework, and make sure you are not over-exposed. Talk to your physician or dentist if you have questions, and don’t be afraid to do your own digging. For example, I have discovered that my community does not have fluoride in its water. At Premier Dental, we will always support the decisions you believe are best for you and your family. —Hema Gopal, DMD
CHARLENE LORI PRACTICE MANAGER PETER
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