The Center for Disease Control (CDC) calls the addition of fluoride compounds to public water one of the greatest health advancements of the 20th century. While it is great for adults and children alike, differences in fluoride levels across cities and states make it very necessary to avoid using that water as a default drinking source. There is a standard accepted across health organizations nationwide that anywhere from .7ppm (parts per million) to approximately 1.2ppm are the standard acceptable ranges, varying slightly depending on the publication.
Fluoride is a chemical compound of the element Fluorine that is found in soil and water. It has been found to protect teeth against decay, and also to help their growth at young ages. With the increased popularity of bottled water in recent years, unless the water is purposely fortified with fluoride many Americans are sidestepping that medical advancement; and possibly not getting the minerals they need on a regular basis.
This is where the conundrum of using fluoride comes in. Too much fluoride has been found to hinder the growth of teeth by creating small holes in the enamel, as well as mild to severe discoloration in some cases. The danger does go beyond the teeth, however; a 2010 Journal of Medicine study on rats in a maze actually showed (excessively) increased fluoride levels were linked to memory loss and learning deficiencies. Other short term effects of fluoride overdoses are diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Eighty percent of these cases occur in children under 6, so keep toothpaste and rinses out of reach, and always monitor brushing (teach the children to rinse and spit as well).
Some pediatricians actually prescribe fluoride drops to children over six months in areas where the water is known not to contain it. There are several national and international organizations that promote the fluoridation of water as well. On the other side of the coin, there are many who believe it is up to the individual to decide what is appropriate for their own families.
As always, the best idea possible is to review your own situation with your pediatric dentist. Tell them what you are currently doing in your home, and if they donít have information on your home water supply, your local water utility should be able to supply that information. While children less than 6 months old do not need fluoride, beyond that age it is worth considering. If there is no potable water in your area, the doctor may recommend a supplement in the form of drops.
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