What’s in Your Water?

First things first…we hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Hopefully those who travelled had uneventful trips with nothing approaching Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  But now it is time to return to the business of this blog, TEETH!

We are going to answer 2 questions today.  Do you know if you have fluoridated water?  And what does fluoride have to do with teeth?  

The first question is easily answered.  If you have well water, there is a very strong chance that you do NOT have fluoridated water.  If you have community water (Canton City, Massillon, etc.) then chances are you DO.  

Our second question will take a tad longer and requires some history and science.  Stay with me, it isn’t that boring.  Fluoride was first added to select water supplies in 1945, with The US Public Health Service recommending that water fluoridation be instituted nationwide in 1962 (more on that later).  

The science is very simple.  Fluoride acts much like Calcium in that, when ingested, it collects in certain areas of the body (specifically the bones and teeth).  For children whose permanent teeth are still being formed, the fluoride helps form a compound called Hydroxyapatite, and that gets incorporated into the enamel portion of the new tooth.  Hydroxyapatite makes the tooth stronger and more resistant to the formation of cavities, which is the main benefit of fluoridated water.  Adults also benefit from fluoridated water because Fluoride provides a way to ‘heal’ damaged enamel surfaces through a process called ‘remineralization.’  

Alright, hopefully you are still with me because now I can explain why we decided to talk about this in the first place.  Remember that the US Public Health Service recommended the nationwide implementation of fluoridated water (I only mentioned it 2 paragraphs ago)?  Well without going too deep into our Constitution and the concept of Federalism, local communities have the authority to determine whether their water gets fluoridated, not the Federal Government.  And every November (i.e., election time) the American Dental Association (ADA) sends a newsletter stating that some communities have decided to stop fluoridating their water supply.  It just so happens that this year multiple communities voted to stop!  Why?

It turns out there are two common reasons.  The most common one is the existence of ‘studies’ attempting to connect the presence of fluoridated water with autism and various types of cancer.  These studies are poor at best.  The other often cited reason is a fear of a government putting things into the water supply.  I really don’t feel I need to rationalize that statement…just throw away the tin-foil hats.

In reality, the effects of fluoridated water have been vigorously studied by both the government and private researchers.  And the results are quite clear.  With over 50 comprehensive studies and 25 systematic reviews (think studies of the studies), there is no strong link to cancer or autism.  Water fluoridation has been a resounding success because dental cavity rates have significantly declined since 1962.  The CDC even cited water fluoridation as one of the top 10 most significant public health programs of the 20th century!  

Ok, lets wrap this up.  Obviously we feel that fluoridated water is a tremendous benefit to a growing child’s teeth.  Teeth are going to be stronger and more resistant to cavities.  Adults also see the same benefits but at a more superficial level.  So here is some homework.  You can find out about your water supply by contacting your water company.  Ask them if the water is fluoridated, and what is the concentration.  The current recommendation is 0.7mg/L (that’s milligrams per Liter).  If you have well water, you should ask your Dentist (or Orthodontist) if supplemental vitamins would be beneficial for your kids.  

If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

-Drs. Nate, Theresa and Nick

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