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Government Lowers Amount of Fluoride in Drinking Water

Too much can cause spottiness or streaking on teeth

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Norwalk, CT | Added on May 14, 2015 At 10:00 AM

Fluoride in drinking water is trusted to dramatically decrease cavities and tooth decay, but recent studies have shown it may be too much of a good thing.

The U.S. government is lowering the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water to 0.7 milligrams per liter to limit the risk of dental fluorosis, that is change in the appearance of tooth enamel. 

"It's been within the last 10 to 15 years that it's more prevalent now. I've been in practice for about 35 years and I've seen an increasing number of young children have this," said  Dr. Gregory Prieston of Norwalk Dental Care. "It doesn't hurt the development of the teeth or make them any damage to the teeth but it is a cosmetic concern." 

It's the first change since the U.S. Public Health Service urged cities to add fluoride to water supplies about 70 years ago to prevent tooth decay. The CDC reports even with the use of other fluoride products, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by 25% among children and adults. Dr. Gregory Prieston of Norwalk Dental Care says despite fluorosis he's seen the benefits of fluoride. 

"If you look at this generation, the amount of decay, the size of the restorations that we're doing as opposed to the previous generations who have many more crowns, many more large restorations, we have definitely seen a reduction in the amount of dental work that's been necessary because of fluoride." 

Previously recommendations of fluoride concentrations were based on outdoor air temperatures and could reach up to 1.2 mg per liter.  The change came about after a study revealed 2 out of 5 adolescents experienced tooth streaking or spottiness. 

"If the fluoride levels are very high, what we can see is pitting of the surface of the teeth, we can see very deep brown staining, we can see some disturbance of the formation of the enamel, but these are at very very high levels and I see these very infrequently. They are a very small percentage of the population   

Prieston says children up to 8 years of age are at greatest risk for fluorosis while their teeth are still developing. And although fluorosis is usually a mild cosmetic issue, treatment options vary. 

"Some cases I've seen fluorosis be accentuated by using whitening techniques, but there's also a technique where there's a mild abrasion of the tooth where that outer layer of the fluorisis, white spots is superficial and it's in the outer layers and that can somehow be removed with some gentle abrasion and re-mineralization of the tooth, but for most individuals it doesn't present that big of an issue for them."


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