Feds Lower Fluoride Level – Why is it there? Is it safe?

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.06.47 AMAnnounced last night, the Health and Human Services Department has lowered their recommendation regarding the amount of fluoride that should be present in our water sources. We wanted to take a moment and explain this change, the benefits of fluoride, and some of the concerns you are probably already aware of.

Previous Federal recommendations were for .7mg/L in warmer climates and 1.2 mg/L in cooler climates. The idea, which is some 50 years old, was that folks in warmer climates drink more water. This has not been shown to be correct in recent studies so their recommendation has been changed to reflect that. They also add that most Americans receive a significant amount of fluoride in their toothpaste, mouthwashes as well as fluoride treatments available in their dentist’s office.

The change is not due to new concerns about the safety nor the efficacy of fluoride in the water. In fact, it is quite the opposite according to U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Dr. Boris D. Lushniak who states, “Community water fluoridation is effective, inexpensive and does not depend on access or availability of professional services. It has been the basis for the primary prevention of tooth decay for nearly 70 years.” 

How does it work? Your teeth are made of a substance called hydroxyapatite. It is the strongest substance in the body. However, when you eat sugar bacteria in your mouth produce acid. This actually changes the pH of your mouth enough to break down this strong substance and cause cavities. When you have fluoride in your diet it binds to the hydroxyapatite in your teeth and improves the pH solubility by a full 10x! This effectively makes your teeth more impervious to cavities and prevents you tooth decay. In some cases fluoride can even reverse a cavity that has already begun.

So what are the risks? There has been much talk in the news about the safety of fluoride and whether should be getting it at all. According to the Center for Disease control the lethal dose of fluoride is 5g in an adult. Meaning with the current regulations someone would have to drink over 7000L of water before reaching the lethal dose. OSHA allows for a dose of 2.5mg per 30 minute period to be considered safe. The moral is we are nowhere near the dangerous doses in our water.

So are there real concerns? Yes, too much fluoride can cause discoloration in tooth formation. This is extremely rare and most common in children that drink well water with extremely high levels of natural fluoride, not water from public sources. The biggest concern is if a child ingests a large amount of toothpaste. While likely not enough to be considered toxic, it is considered an emergency and therefore it is smart to keep tubes of adult toothpaste out of the hands of small children.

In summary, we support the HHS Department change in the levels. We feel .7mg/L is adequate to provide the benefits of fluoride to our patients and keep them far away from dangerous levels. As always if you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to call our office at (913) 384-0044 for more information.

Of note: If you live in Johnson County the levels will not change, they have been at .7mg/L for several years. KCMO has changed over effective immediately.


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