The city of Ames Water and Pollution Control Department lowered fluoridation levels in Ames’ drinking water from 1.0 milligrams to .07 [sic, should be .7] milligrams Jan. 13.
The department was driven by data collected from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
“Fluoride is just a natural mineral that occurs in our water at a level of about 0.3 to 0.4 [milligrams] per liter,” said Phil Propes, superintendent of the Ames Water Treatment Plant. “The American Dental Association and other research groups have found that about 1.0 [milligrams] per liter of fluoride is an optimum amount to help prevent tooth decays. So we supplemented the naturally-found fluoride in our groudwater and brought it up to 1.0 [milligrams] until Monday.”
The department was relying on six to seven years worth of research that the CDC and EPA had been jointly collecting, said John Dunn, director of Ames Water and Pollution Control.
“We sat in a webcast [Tuesday] that was led by the EPA and the CDC, and they were talking through a tremendous amount of statistical calculations, looking at all the different sources of fluoride,” Dunn said. “They studied how much fluoride people get in their diet, how much fluoride they get through toothpastes, they looked at what the exposures of fluorides were from small children up to full-grown adults.”
It’s because of all these outside sources of fluoride and a larger awareness of dental health that has the HHS and CDC recommended lowering the level fluoride, Propes said.
Fluoride is a natural mineral. In Ames it can be found in groundwater, which supplies Ames’ drinking water. The mineral acts as a barrier for teeth, preventing bacteria from forming cavities on the tooth’s enamel.
“Primarily it’s for kids whose permanent teeth haven’t erupted through the gums yet; that’s where the greatest benefit for fluoride in drinking water comes,” Dunn said.
However, Dunn stresses all things in moderation. fluoride has been proven to help with oral health in small doses, but he stresses the adverse affects of high doses. The worst entails forming a brittleness within the bones of the teeth, hindering the tooth’s ability to absorb and retain calcium.
“It’s a matter of trying to maintain the maximum oral health benefit while minimizing the potential health risks,” Dunn said.
By lowering the amount of fluoride, the department hopes to hit the level that will give the residents of Ames the oral health benefits they need without any drawbacks.