You know dentists and other dental experts recommend fluoride as a way to fight dental decay. But you may also have read articles online that link fluoride in water to some pretty serious health conditions.

Do you need to be concerned about your family drinking fluoridated water? Generally speaking, no. Fluoride in water has many benefits that outweigh potential problems.That said, it’s a good idea to be careful with fluoride consumption for very young children, ages 3 and under.

Whether or not they consume fluoridated water, some members of your family may be at greater risk of tooth decay. If so, we may recommend a fluoride varnish or similar treatment for them in our Montgomery dentist office. If you have any questions or concerns about fluoride, call Carmichael Dental Care at 334-600-1423.

Why Fluoride Helps Prevent Cavities

Fluoride comes from the chemical element fluorine.  It can’t repair cavities, but it can stop low levels of tooth decay from forming cavities in your tooth enamel. It does this by preventing the acid produced by bacteria in your mouth from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel. It can also help repair, or remineralize, enamel that has already suffered minor damage – preventing that damage from turning into a cavity.

What You Need to Know About Fluoride in Water

Fluoride occurs naturally in some water supplies. Where it doesn’t, many municipalities decided to add it to their water to reduce the incidence of dental decay. According to the CDC, about three-quarters of Americans have access to water that is fluoridated to the recommended level to help prevent tooth decay.The CDC considers fluoride in water one of 10 great public health achievements of the past century.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires public water systems to notify its customers if naturally occurring levels of fluoride in their water supplies exceed 2.0 mg/L or parts per million. If you want to check the level of fluoride in your community’s water supply, you can refer to My Water’s Fluoride, from the CDC’s website.

It’s not as easy to determine the amount of fluoride in well water or water from a private source. Your local or state Health and Human Services Department should be able to refer you to a certified laboratory in your area that can test these water supplies. Some communities also offer free water screenings.

What About Bottled Water?

Bottled water that comes from a fluoridated source will contain fluoride. Some, but not all, water producers add additional fluoride. Those that do must list the amount of added fluoride on the label. You can find a list of bottled water with fluoride on the international Bottled Water Association website.

Avoid Fluoride in Water for Infants

So when is fluoride in water a potential problem? Because infants need less fluoride than older kids or adults, it’s a good idea to use only water with low concentrations of fluoride when mixing with powdered or liquid formula. Look for bottled water labeled de-ionized, purified, demineralized, or distilled. You can also avoid fluoride in water by breast feeding or using ready-to-feed formula.

The main risk in consuming too much fluoride while teeth is forming is a condition called dental fluorosis. It’s not harmful, but it can cause faint white streaks or other discoloration to appear on teeth. Children are typically only at risk until around the age of 8.

Watch Toothpaste With Fluoride Too

Fluoride in water isn’t the only source of fluoride that may prove problematic for kids. Make sure that young children use only a very small amount of fluoridated toothpaste. The ADA recommends a bit of toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice for kids younger than 3 and no larger than a pea for ages 3-6 – and our Montgomery, AL dentists agree. Don’t use fluoride rinses for children younger than 6 since they may swallow it instead of spitting it out.

While fluoride is nothing to fear, it makes sense to find out more about the amount of fluoride in water you drink and to monitor the usage of products containing fluoride in your youngest family members. Our dentists are happy to answer your questions about fluoride, or anything else concerning your family’s dental health. Call Carmichael Dental Care at 334-600-1423.