Fluoride and Dental Health

Bottled water is now the number one drink in the U.S. But giving your kids bottled water may have some unexpected consequences. Today, we’re going to talk about fluoride in the tap water. Fluoride has been added to the water in most U.S. communities since it was

Adult-sized portion of toothpaste.

Adult-sized portion of toothpaste.

Bottled Water

Dental health has improved steadily in both fluoridated and unfluoridated communities of the U.S. But, more recently, the consumption of bottled water has created a downturn in dental health among school-aged children, especially evident in Flint, Michigan, where the problems with tap water led parents to give their children bottled water. While lead blood levels went down, dental caries went up. 


None of this is a full expression of the complicated role fluoride plays in overall health. For example, in 2015, the federal government recommended lowering the amount of fluoride added to drinking water. Part of the reason is that most toothpaste contains fluoride, and most people use toothpaste and other fluoride-containing products. Fluorosis, cosmetic staining of the teeth, can occur when there is too much fluoride in a child’s diet.

A community issue

Some communities, such as Tucson, don’t fluoridate their water. Said one Tucson dentist, “We lobbied, and the mayor and council voted and mandated it. I am so frustrated. I almost think it’s a situation for a class-action suit by poor people. They are suffering and have no means to fix it.”

Child-sized portion of toothpaste (on child's brush)

Child-sized portion of toothpaste (on child's brush)

Dr. Richard Chaet, a Scottsdale pediatric dentist who is the former president of the Arizona Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, says that fluoride reduces tooth decay by a minimum of 50% and adds, “It is the easiest, least expensive public health measure that can be used basically in the world to reduce cavities in children.”

But the State of Arizona doesn’t mandate fluoride in the water, so it’s up to the local communities to supply it. At the same time, many children exceed the recommended daily allowance of fluoride because a stripe of toothpaste along their toothbrush contains more than the recommended daily allowance and because children swallow 50% of the toothpaste on their brush.

Parents are the key

Toddler-sized portion of toothpaste on child sized brush.

Toddler-sized portion of toothpaste on child sized brush.

Parents, therefore, should monitor the amount of fluoridated toothpaste their children consume. A tiny smear, no thicker than a grain of rice, is plenty for a child under the age of five. For ages six and up, a small pea-sized amount is plenty.  

Adults should also be careful of the amount of fluoride they consume.  The big swirled ribbon of toothpaste touted by toothpaste companies in commercials is designed to sell more toothpaste, not to keep people healthy. Osteoporotic fractures associated with fluoridated water are a concern for the elderly, although more research is needed.

Fluoridated water reduces cavities in children, and should be part of a balanced program for managing children’s dental health, along with wise monitoring of a child’s toothpaste consumption.

If you need a gentle, caring dental team, please call our office at (623) 362-2550. We’ll give you the very best dental care we can!