Today, I am going to talk about systemic fluoride. It is the type of fluoride that is “ingested,” usually via the city water supply. After diligent research, the Center for Disease Control determined that the optimal level of water fluoridation is 0.7–1.2 mg/L, depending on climate. Any locale that has fluoridated water has an optimal level, not to exceed 1.2 mg/L.
Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first American city to add supplemental fluoride to the water supply 70 years ago. We now have about 72% of the US population receiving fluoride from a public water supply. Studies have shown that it can reduce the amount of children’s tooth decay by 60%.
So, you are probably wondering what is there to debate, right?
Ingesting too much fluoride can have negative effects. If too much fluoride is ingested over an infant/child’s life, their adult teeth may erupt with permanent brown stains. This is called dental fluorosis. It can also occur if well water is naturally too abundant in fluoride, which is why it is VERY important to test your well water. However, for city water, we must remember that each locale is mandated not to exceed 1.2 mg/L of fluoride supplementation in the water. There are barriers in place to ensure that dental fluorosis does not occur.
Another point of contention is the cost to the consumers to add fluoride to the water supply. It can cost approximately $0.62-$3.90 per person, per year. However, economists largely estimate that for every 40 cents spent on fluoridating a community’s water supply, it saves each patient about $40 in dental care.
Also, people will argue that there is fluoride in toothpaste and while that is true, we must remember that toothpaste provides a TOPICAL benefit. Children very much need a systemic benefit for their developing teeth and each person receives a benefit from drinking fluoridated water. Each time you drink fluoridated water, fluoride is touching your teeth and helping to harden your teeth.
There is also some health risks associated with ingesting EXTREMELY high levels of fluoride, which rarely ever happens. But as we say with anything else in life, everything in moderation is the key. The CDC has done just that with fluoride research – finding the optimal level of fluoride supplementation to help, not harm.
I think it’s important for my patients to understand that, in my opinion, fluoride supplementation in the public water supply is a wonderful and necessary mandate. It has proven its efficacy and advantages for over 70 years. For this situation, I apply this rule – “If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.” This is working and working well so let’s not change what is immensely successful and beneficial for almost every single person.
Please contact The Silberman Dental Group if you would like further information. I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Ali Peters, RDH