Family Health Magazine - DENTAL HEALTH
New Fluoride Findings
Taking steps to avoid dental fluorosis
For decades, we have been adding fluoride to water supplies, toothpastes, mouth rinses and other products. Research shows that fluoride continues to safely and effectively reduce dental caries (cavities) in Canadians.
Over time, products containing fluoride have become more common. Some concern exists that children are swallowing more fluoride than they need to prevent cavities. The higher levels of fluoride fall within accepted safety levels. However, they might contribute to dental fluorosis if swallowed during a child’s early years of tooth development.
Mild fluorosis looks like white flecks or spots on the teeth. It is often unnoticeable. Moderate fluorosis appears as spotted areas and mild staining. Recently, recommendations have been made to prevent this level of fluorosis from occurring among Canadian children.
Health Canada’s expert panel findings
To review fluoride exposure, Health Canada commissioned an expert panel. They provided the following findings and recommendations.
- Water fluoridation is still an effective way to reduce dental caries among Canadians.
- From a health perspective, there is no reason to worry about very mild and mild dental fluorosis in Canada.
- The current maximum acceptable concentration of fluoride in drinking water is 1.5 mg/L. This level is not likely to cause moderate dental fluorosis or affect health. The maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for fluoride in drinking water will be monitored.
- A level of 0.7 mg/L is considered the best target concentration for fluoride in drinking water. This level would prevent those exposed to many sources of fluoride from taking in too much. Currently, the drinking water guideline for fluoride is 0.8 mg/L.
- Low-fluoride versions of toothpaste made especially for children should be promoted and encouraged. Such toothpastes are already available in other countries.
Lowering the amount of fluoride in public water and encouraging the use of low-fluoride toothpastes for children does two things. It confirms that fluoride effectively prevents cavities. It also reduces the risk for moderate dental fluorosis. Fluoride research and health policy help ensure that fluoride is used appropriately to improve the oral health of Canadians.
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