Fluoride Action Network

Western Springs: Is the Temporary Increase of Fluoride in Our Water a Problem?

Source: Tower Topics, Volume 59, Issue 2, March/April 2012 | April 15th, 2012 | By Dr. James Maragos DDS
Location: United States, Illinois

There has been some concern among residents about the naturally occurring fluoride level in our drinking water. The water plant is currently in the fifth month of a one-year construction project to improve the quality of our water by installing reverse osmosis equipment.

During my term as a Village trustee (2007—11), I chaired the Public Works and Water Committee, the committee that planned the water plant renovation. As a practicing general dentist, I have heard the concerns of my Western Springs patients about the water and want to share information from the American Dental Association (ADA), which hopefully will answer some questions and ease the concern of our Village residents. According to the ADA‘s Fluoridation Facts,

Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of teeth and is caused when higher than optimal amounts of fluoride are ingested in early childhood while the tooth is forming. The risk of dental fluorosis can be greatly reduced by closely monitoring the proper use of fluoride products by young children.

Normally, the fluoride level in our drinking water is around 1 part per million (ppm), but during the renovation of the water treatment plant, the water is coming from another well. That well draws water from a deep aquifer, which has a naturally occurring fluoride level of 2.1 ppm. If the drinking water has a fluoride concentration of 2.1 ppm, there is a very small chance that the tooth enamel being formed in a child 0—5 years old will have white spots covering less than 25 percent of the total tooth surface, when the tooth erupts into the mouth. This is called very mild fluorosis. The risk of fluorosis in children 5—8 is only in the enamel of their third molars, “wisdom teeth,” which are often removed. Children over 8 and adults have no risk of fluorosis because the dental enamel is already formed. White spots on the teeth, especially at the gum line, can also be the early signs of decay caused by inadequate tooth brushing.

There are other sources of fluoride (toothpaste, anti-cavity rinses) that a child age 0—5 can swallow. If this occurs, the chance of dental fluorosis increases as well. This is the easiest source of fluoride to control. Parents could buy toothpaste without fluoride or have the child brush with only water on the toothbrush. Until children have their back teeth, molars (approximately 2 years old), the front teeth should cleaned by wiping them with a soft cloth without toothpaste.

Drinking water with the optimal concentration of 1 ppm has reduced the incidence of decay in children’s teeth by 20—40 percent. Therefore, it is important for the child 0—5 years old to have fluoride in their drinking water.

According to the ADA, the maximum reduction in dental decay is achieved when fluoride is available preeruptively (during tooth formation) and posteruptively (after the tooth erupts) by surface contact with fluoridated water. Therefore, if there is no fluoride in the drinking water during tooth formation during ages 0—5, the opportunity to get fluoride into the tooth enamel is gone, and the teeth are more susceptible to decay over the lifetime of the patient.

Possible solutions to get the fluoride concentration in our water to an optimal fluoride concentration are:

• Use ½ tap water with ½ non-fluoridated bottled water for the drinking water and formula preparation for children 0—5 years old.

• Use only commercially available bottled water with the proper fluoride concentration. Current regulations require the fluoride content of bottled water to be listed on the label ONLY if fluoride is added during processing.

The only filters for home use that could filter out all the fluoride would be reverse-osmosis filters and distillation units. I would not recommend purchasing these items because soon (within eight months) they will not be needed. The new water plant will be completed and excellent water at the optimal fluoride concentration will be in circulation.

For more information on this topic, visit the ADA web site at www.ada.org/fluoride.