Can fluoride be too much of a good thing? In this 2008 file photo, Tianna Swisher, a student at Liberty Valley Elementary School in Danville, Pa., attempts to drink from the water fountain at Montour Preserve near Washingtonville, Pa., during an outdoor field trip (AP photos)
Can fluoride be too much of a good thing?
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The government is lowering the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water. That's because some kids are getting too much. It is causing white splotches on their teeth.

It's the first change since the government urged cities to add fluoride to water supplies to prevent tooth decay. That was more than 50 years ago. Now, fluoride is put in toothpaste, mouthwash and other products as well.

One study found about 2 out of 5 adolescents had tooth streaking or spottiness. It's primarily a cosmetic issue, said Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak.

The mineral fluoride is in water and soil. About 70 years ago, scientists discovered that people whose drinking water naturally had more fluoride also had fewer cavities.

Grand Rapids, Michigan became the world's first city to add fluoride to its drinking water. That was in 1945. Six years later, a study found a dramatic decline in tooth decay among children there. Then the U.S. surgeon general endorsed water fluoridation.

Today, about 75 percent of Americans get fluoridated water.

But adding fluoride was, and has remained, controversial. Opponents argue its health effects aren't completely understood. They say adding it amounts to an unwanted medication.

Portland, Oregon voters rejected a proposal to add fluoride two years ago. This year, Sheridan, Wyoming resumed adding fluoride. The city stopped in 1953 after a referendum.

Water fluoridation has been a public health success. Communities should keep adding fluoride, said Kathleen O'Loughlin, the American Dental Association's executive.

Lushniak added: "It is the best method for delivering fluoride to all members of the community."

Since 1962, the government has recommended a range of 0.7 milligrams per liter for warmer climates where people drink more water. In cooler areas, they recommended 1.2 milligrams. The new standard is 0.7 everywhere.

Recent unpublished federal research found there's no regional differences in the amount of water kids drink. So it makes sense for the same levels to be used everywhere, health officials said.

To limit fluoride for young children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this advice. Don't use fluoride toothpaste for children under 2 unless recommended by a dentist. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children 2 through 6. And avoid fluoride mouthwash.

Critical thinking challenge: Why is fluoride added to water instead of some other food or beverage?

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COMMENTS (100)
  • TaylorH-4
    5/02/2015 - 01:12 a.m.

    The government is lowering the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water and other products. This is because some kids are getting way too much fluoride. It causes white boxers on their teeth. More than fifty years ago the government told companies to put more fluoride in products. I enjoyed this article because I never knew fluoride was bad for you.

  • MaggieM-3
    5/02/2015 - 02:31 p.m.

    The government recently lowered the amount of florid recommended amount of fluoride to be put in water. Originally the it was recommended to have 0.7 milligrams of fluoride in the water in places with a warmer climate, and 0.12 milligrams in places with a cooler climate because people thought that children drank less water in cooler places. However a new study shows that the amount of water children drink is the same despite the climate, so it make sense to lower the amount of fluoride in the cooler places. A study shows the two out of five children have white spots and streaks on there teeth, believed to be caused be the large amount of fluoride consumed by children. People started putting fluoride in water more than fifty years ago when it was the only way to distribute it to the general public. Now fluoride is in many dental hygiene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. This puts many children at risk for getting to much fluoride, which might not be life threatening but still leaves white spots and streaks on teeth and is a cosmetic issue.

    I think that it is very good the government is looking into ways they can help the oral problems and concerns. It is good that people are looking for the perfect amount of fluoride to be beneficial to children, it shows that the government is doing their job.

  • OliviaH-Kut
    5/03/2015 - 04:55 p.m.

    I think fluoride is added to water because everybody drinks water. not everybody drinks soda or juice. people use water for everything, cooking ,drinking etc. and tap water being so cheap, lots of people drink it. So more people will receive fluoride.

  • DominicP-Kut
    5/03/2015 - 05:52 p.m.

    I think that is WAS good to add flouride to water,toothpaste,mouthwash,etc. Until this article was brought to my attention. I now looks like in a few years if this isnt fixed, America will have serious dental problems. But if you look on the other side, flouridification has been good thus far why should we stop now? I guess it's a matter of opinion for this article

  • AndreasG-Kut
    5/03/2015 - 06:44 p.m.

    i think people should still use fluoride because it is a natural thing to have it in there ansi also understand that people would not want white splatches on their teeth so i could go both ways.

  • JadenW-Kut
    5/03/2015 - 08:54 p.m.

    I think its kinda weird the government can do whatever they went to our drinking water. for crying out loud, they could put rat poison in our water. I'm glad i live on a well that has a very good filter on it.. I'm also glad I read this, because relating to life I see a lot of kids with splotchy white marks on their teeth. At least fluoride doesn't kill people.. Or could it?

  • AJ_Slater
    5/03/2015 - 10:10 p.m.

    Fluorine is a common mineral found in natural drinking water. It helps keep cavities from appearing, so around 50 years ago it was added to public drinking fountains. Now it is found out to cause white blotches on teeth. Many cities are now choosing to remove fluorine. I think that cities should have fluorine.

  • MicahL-Kut
    5/03/2015 - 10:12 p.m.

    I knew that fluoride cleaned teeth because I was bored while brushing my teeth so I read the label and it said it had fluoride in it,but any way i didn't know that they put it in the drinking fountains.

  • Ally.
    5/04/2015 - 08:31 a.m.

    I never knew that I was drinking fluoride when I was drinking water. I guess it's like brushing your teeth when you are drinking water. But if it is going to start health issues then they need to take it out of water. No one wants white spots all over their teeth.

  • ImanB-1
    5/04/2015 - 08:43 a.m.

    The government is lowering the amount of fluorine in drinking water, because children are receiving too much. This results in white splotches on their teeth. 2 out of 5 adolescents have tooth streaking or sportiness. Not everyone agrees the with idea of Fluorine what so over, saying its health affects aren't completely understood. I think Fluorine is good for you, it's added in toothpaste to clean teeth, that's the main ingredient.

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