Excess fluoride may cause splotches on teeth

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: April 28th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Adding fluoride to the nation’s drinking water has been credited with reducing cavities and fighting tooth decay. But is this a case of too much of a good thing?

A recent government study found that two out of every five adolescents has splotches or streaks on their teeth as a result of too much fluoride. In worst-case scenarios, some kids even develop pits on their teeth, although most are so small they can only be spotted by dentists.

The surprising results prompted the U.S. government to propose lowering the levels of fluoride in drinking water to point seven milligrams per liter of water. The standard since nineteen sixty two has been between point seven and one point two milligrams.

The Environmental Protection Agency also plans to review if the current maximum cut-off of four milligrams is too high.

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in water and soil. About seventy years ago, scientists noticed that people who lived in places where the water had a higher fluoride concentration also were less likely to experience tooth decay. Today, fluoride is added to most public drinking water. About sixty-four percent of the U.S. population drinks fluoridated water.

The subject has been quite controversial over the years. But is this latest news cause for panic? While the subject of fluoride has traditionally stirred debate among people who worried about its effects, dentists and experts say no. Most of the splotches recorded are barely noticeable. Most practitioners agree that the good done by fluoride far outweighs any possible concerns. In fact, health officials list water fluoridation among one of the ten greatest public health accomplishments of the twentieth century.

And sorry, kids. Government officials agree. You still need to brush your teeth at least twice a day and continue to floss.