Dentists are seeing a surge in baby teeth cavities, with some children having so many, they need anesthesia. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Synderman and Dr. Bruce Blau talk about the dental problem facing children in America.
By JoNel Aleccia
It turns out that many dentists and government health officials suspect that the practice of skipping tap water in favor of bottled water may be contributing to rising rates of tooth decay in young children.
“You should brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, see the dentist twice a year for fluoride treatment and get fluoride in your drinking water,” said Jonathan D. Shenkin, spokesman on pediatric dentistry for the American Dental Association. “If you’re not getting it in your drinking water, that takes out a component of the effectiveness of that triad.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too, warns that “bottled water may not have a sufficient amount of fluoride, which is important for preventing tooth decay and promoting oral health.”
No question, many kids do drink bottled water. One recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics found that about 45 percent of parents give their kids only or primarily bottled water, while another in the journal Pediatric Dentistry found that nearly 70 percent of parents gave bottled water either alone or with tap water.
More than 65 percent of parents using bottled water did not know what levels of fluoride it contained, that study showed.
To be clear, there are no studies to date that document a clear tie between bottled water and tooth decay. And the International Bottled Water Association, an industry trade group, notes that at least 20 of its roughly 125 bottlers do offer fluoridated bottled water — and that water is a healthier option than other beverages.
Fluoridation of public water supplies has been hailed as a public health victory, but in recent years, many U.S. communities have voted to stop adding it to local drinking water. Fluoride protects against tooth decay, but it also can cause tooth discoloration and bone weakness if ingested at too high levels for many years, experts agree.
Federal regulators last year proposed setting recommended fluoride levels in drinking water to the lowest end of a range that permits between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, but officials are still wrestling with finding a balance between preventing decay without harming teeth and health.