For the first time in over 50 years, the federal government decided to decrease the amount of fluoride that is added to drinking water. According to the Chicago Tribune, government officials explained that Americans are getting more fluoride now than ever before, and that quite a few Americans are actually consuming too much fluoride.
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water and soil, although the percentage of fluoride naturally found in water is not enough to affect a person’s health in any substantial way.
About 70 years ago, researchers discovered that children who drank water with extra fluoride added generally had fewer cavities than children drinking natural or bottled water. Although it was — and still is — considered very controversial, the U.S. government decided to start adding fluoride to public water systems back in 1962.
The government originally mandated that warmer regions should have fluoride added at 0.7 parts per million (ppm) and colder regions should have it added at 1.2 ppm, reasoning that people in warmer climates would drink more water and would naturally consume more fluoride.
Recently, the government decided to set 0.7 ppm as the fluoride standard for all regions of the country. Even though the decision to add fluoride has been controversial since it originated in 1962, this is the first time officials have decided to make any changes.
Now, the problem is that many people — especially kids — are consuming too much. When this happens, HealthDay explains, white splotches start to appear on the teeth because the fluoride stains tooth enamel. This condition, called fluorosis, is fairly harmless, although teeth may become rough and pitted if too much fluoride is consumed for a long period of time.
Dental experts state that healthy teeth and gums depend on mostly on brushing (70% of cleaning) and flossing (30% of cleaning), but the sheer number of additional oral hygiene products that include fluoride (like mouthwash and toothpaste) has skyrocketed.
Officials warn that this shouldn’t be taken as a sign to avoid fluoridated water completely, unless directed by a dental professional.