April 27, 2015 (Washington D.C.) – Americans are getting too much fluoride from multiple sources including toothpaste, mouthwash, some juices and sodas, and water. So the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is recommending cutting in half the amount of fluoride that’s added to drinking water to prevent tooth decay.
The new standard is less than 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, replacing an older standard that’s been in place since 1962. The old standard recommended a range from 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter.
The federal government officially recognizes only one problem associated with too much fluoride: fluorosis, which causes staining of teeth. The stains can be white or in severe cases brown, sometimes requiring cosmetic procedures to hide the discoloration. Only children age eight or younger are at risk of fluorosis, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention.
According to WebMD, fluorosis affects nearly one in every four Americans ages 6 to 49. It’s most prevalent in those ages 12 to 15. The vast majority of cases are mild, and less than 1% are “severe.” But researchers have also observed that since the mid-1980s, the prevalence of fluorosis in children ages 12 to 15 has increased.
Although fluorosis is not a disease, its effects can be psychologically distressing and difficult to treat.
But some scientists contend that excess fluoride may lower IQs and also increase the risk of other health conditions such as thyroid disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Dr. Philippe Grandjean at Harvard’s School of Public Health says, “"Due to the importance of having the best possible brains in the future, I think that that would suggest that we be careful about the amount of fluoride that we deliver to the population in drinking water,” NPR reports.
Fluoride Action Network, an organization opposed to water fluoridation, is calling on the U.S. to stop fluoridation altogether, as some European countries have already done.
Parents should closely monitor their children’s teeth and if you see even slight white spots, contact your dentist. Give children only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and teach them to spit out after brushing, not swallow toothpaste. Ingesting very high levels can also lead to fluoroide toxicity with symptoms including nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Adding fluoride to water began after health authorities noted that people in Colorado Springs, Colorado had slightly discolored teeth from naturally occurring fluoride in their water – and they also had stronger teeth that were resistant to cavities.