There has been a widespread public health initiative to add fluoride in small amounts to drinking water. You may recognize the name as the mouthwash or foam that dentists use on your teeth near the end of the cleaning procedure. It is a naturally occurring mineral (found in many natural water sources) that is absorbed by your teeth’s enamel and strengthens it, reducing tooth decay. This initiative has saved cities tens of millions in dental fees.
Water fluoridation has been done in various places worldwide (including Canada) since the early 20th century and has grown in usage over the decades. This has led to a huge reduction in cavities in these places. Children with no other sources of fluoride see a cavity reduction of 35% in their baby teeth when their water is treated with it. Permanent teeth have a reduction of around 13-20%.
Although long considered a safe and effective program, health concerns have lingered about it, and opposition to water fluoridation programs has spiked in recent years. Some places have reduced or eliminated these programs because of this. We would like to look at the top three concerns about water fluoridation and help our community understand the truth of the matter.
Rumours and anecdotal evidence have suggested that fluoridated water is better at absorbing harmful elements from the environment. Lead and arsenic are the most commonly quoted ones. Thankfully, no scientific study has shown that either of these chemicals are present in this water above safe levels. In the case of lead, studies comparing levels of lead in children with access to fluoridated water vs non-fluoridated water couldn’t find a difference once other factors were accounted for.
Skeletal fluorosis is a condition that cause bones to become harder and thicker, making them fracture more easily. It happens when there is a large concentration of fluoride in the body. This is why you spit your fluoride rinse out when you are at the dentist; such a large concentration can be harmful to swallow. Most opponents of water fluoridation list this disease as their main concern; there is no benefit to swallowing fluoride and drinking too much is what causes it.
Thankfully, the dental benefits of fluoride occur with very small doses. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 1.5 parts per million (ppm) as the safe quantity in drinking water, and that guideline is strictly followed in most of the world. At this level, skeletal fluorosis won’t occur, and dental fluorosis (the appearance of harmless white streaks on the teeth) will be unnoticeable without dental tools.
This argument has gained some ground in recent years, because there is sometimes truth to it. Toothpaste and mouthwashes usually contain some amount of fluoride. Some people who practice good oral hygiene worry that they may suffer more noticeable dental fluorosis in communities with treated water. This has led to many of them reducing the fluoride in their water to the minimum recommended level of 0.7ppm, which has become the norm in Canada.
While this isn’t the optimal level of protection, it is a good balance. It still greatly reduces the occurrence of cavities and also minimizes the risk of dental fluorosis in young children, who are more vulnerable to it. There have been no documented cases of skeletal fluorosis or other disease caused by tap water with 0.7ppm
Fluoridated water prevents the development of some cavities, but regular cleaning at the dentist is needed to remove tartar and provide a more thorough fluoride supplement. Kensington Dental Clinic is happy to provide Edmontonians with professional check-ups and cleanings in a relaxed atmosphere. We follow the Alberta Dental Fee Guide and don’t overcharge you for any treatments. If you’re due for a cleaning, call now or contact us using the information below!