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Fluoride: Too Much of a Good Thing?

A recent news article announced plans by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in nearly 50 years, based on a fresh review of the science. This plan echoes the recommendation that your neighborhood First Choice Dental team has been sharing with patients for years. First Choice Dental and the American Dental Association continue to advocate the use of fluorides as a proven method to prevent tooth decay. However, more fluoride isn't always a good thing, and too much can actually be harmful, causing tooth discoloration and potentially other issues.

In order to determine whether or not your family is getting enough (or potentially too much) fluoride, First Choice Dental has always asked parents about the exposure their child has to all the different ways they may be getting fluoride, from drinking water to toothpaste, supplements, mouthwash and other products, and then we base our recommendations on the total picture.

Dr. David Penwell, a First Choice Dental dentist in Verona, Wisc., said, "Fluoride use, as with any healthcare consideration, is something to be considered on an individual, patient-by-patient basis. It is good to see the government recognizing this individualized approach as the correct and best way for the optimum dental health of patients."

For concerned parents wanting to make sure young children get the right amount of, but not too much, fluoride, what can be done?

"The first step is to have your child seen by a dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth, when we can evaluate how their teeth and jaw are developing and while we can make a significant impact on their oral health. This is what the ADA recommends, and we agree," said Dr. Penwell. "At this first appointment, one thing we help parents do is assess how much fluoride your child is getting based on environment, diet and other factors, and help you determine whether your child is getting enough, or too much."

Other things to consider for parents of young children:

  1. Drinking water: Does your family drink primarily tap water, and what level of fluoride does it contain? Or does your family drink mostly bottled water and if so, does it contain fluoride?
  2. Toothpaste: Parents can consider a non-flouride toothpaste so that you can avoid your child ingesting too much fluoride as they learn to brush their baby teeth.
  3. Supplements and fluoride treatments: They're helpful and necessary for some children who need supplemental fluoride. For others, fluoridated drinking water provides all necessary fluoride. Your dentist can help you make this decision for your child based on the input you provide about all the ways your child is getting fluoride.

"There is no hard and fast, one-size-fits-all rule on fluoride," says Penwell. "This is why we treat this issue as we do any patient care concern, on an individualized basis. The best course of action is one involving ongoing dialogue between you and your child's dentist to monitor not only fluoride use, but the child's overall oral health as they grow."

For more information or to make an appointment for your child, see our Complete List of Locations.