What Happens When Fluoride Is Removed from Our Tap Water?

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by Jonathan Richter, DDS, FAGD

If you live in the United States, it is very likely that your tap water is enriched with fluoride, a substance that helps prevent tooth decay and, in some cases, has been proven to reverse the formation of tooth cavities. Fluoride has been scientifically proven to promote the remineralization of teeth by strengthening their enamel and by helping to fight off the bacteria that causes decay. This is the reason why most types of toothpaste and many mouthwash products contain some fluoride. However, ingested fluoride tends to accumulate in our bones, which has led some to worry that drinking fluoridated water might increase the risk of various health problems, specifically osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that starts in the bones.

These concerns are what led the City Assembly of Juneau, the capital of Alaska, to stop fluoridation in their community water since 2007. In a new study that the journal of BMC Oral Health recently published, a research team from the College of Health Sciences at Walden University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the College of Health at the University of Alaska Anchorage have investigated the effects of this decision on the oral health of the young residents of Juneau.

The research team looked at the dental records of all the children and adolescents in Juneau that accessed dental health services through Medicaid during 2003 and 2012. The team deemed 2003 as an “optimal community water fluoridation year,” and they analyzed the dental claims of 853 children and teenagers aged up to 18 years that received dental care that year.

The researchers compared this data with that of 1,052 children and adolescents that received dental care in 2012, five years after the City Assembly of Juneau had voted to stop fluoridation in the community water.

Data analysis revealed that, as the study authors write, “The mean number of caries-related procedures for the 0- to 18-year-old age groups were significantly higher” in the 2012 treatment group, when community water no longer contained fluoride, than in the 2003 group, before the decision to end water fluoridation. 

More specifically, “The odds of a child or adolescent undergoing a dental caries procedure in 2003 was 25.2 percent less than that of a child or adolescent in [2012],” the study authors explain.

Jonathan Richter, DDS, FAGD

This suggests that the added fluoride did have a protective effect on oral health.

Since fluoride occurs naturally in water, community water sources for Juneau still contain some of this mineral, even after the cessation of artificial fluoridation. However, the research team noted that fluoride naturally occurs in much smaller quantities than those that experts consider “optimal for caries prevention.” In fact, fluoride levels in Juneau’s water sources are more than 10 times lower than the optimal levels for oral health, which has been proven in previous research.

Source: Jonathan Richter, DDS, FAGD, of Cariodontal, located at 310 E. Shore Rd., Ste. 101, in Great Neck. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 516-282-0310 or visit Cariodontal.com.

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