2020 is an impressive year. It marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day , a world-wide civic celebration recognizing the importance of taking care of the environment. It is also the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation. In 1945 Grand Rapids Michigan became the first community to fluoridate their drinking water (not to be confused with Flint, MI which had lead in their water- different mineral). Despite current skepticism over whether communities should continue to add fluoride to public drinking water, there are some positive statistics that stand today with years of research backing them. Here are some myths that have been busted.
1) People get fluorosis from drinking fluoridated water. Fluorosis happens when children with developing teeth consume too much fluoride from any source, and those teeth erupt with white lines or streaks. The ADA notes that “The type of fluorosis found in the United States has no effect on tooth function and may make the teeth more resistant to decay.” Once teeth erupt you cannot develop fluorosis. To prevent fluorosis, you may want to use baby formula mixed with non-fluoridated water, watch younger children so that they do not swallow toothpaste, and make sure your dentist and pediatrician know if your water is fluoridated before taking fluoride tablets.
2) Fluoride causes cancer: In 2015, the U.S. Public Health Service lowered the recommended level of fluoride in water from 1.0 (in Massachusetts) to .7 parts per million. This was in response to the availability and use of other fluoride rinses, toothpastes and fluoride supplements that people may take to reduce the build up of fluoride in the body. Shown in animal testing, excessive fluoride can build up in the bones and in growth plates, especially in male rats, causing osteosarcoma. The American Cancer Society has collected studies over the last 25 years, and has not identified any direct correlation between communities with drinking water and an increase in cancer or cancer risk in humans. This is not to say that consumption of high levels of fluoride from other sources combined does not cause an increased risk.
3) Why fluoridate water in communities if adults do not need it? A big debate is whether the risk of fluoride in drinking water out weighs the benefits to children with developing teeth. A report by Medical News Today in 2019 looked at an Alaskan community that decided to eliminate fluoride in its drinking water and study what happened over time. Backing up findings by the ADA, in a 9 year period, they found that there was a 25.2% increase in cavities in this community, despite the availability of fluoridated rinses, toothpastes and supplements. They also noted that the cost to families for cavity treatment rose by 73%. The benefit of fluoride to strengthen the enamel in unerupted teeth, and to remineralize the enamel in erupted teeth creates healthy teeth that last a lifetime.