Find Out How Much Fluoride Is In Your Water

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Fluoride is a natural mineral present in the soil and the environment. It can enter the water supply in small amounts, and, in many developed countries, including the United States, it is also added to tap water as a supplement.

In August 2015, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) updated its recommendations for fluoride concentration in drinking water, recommending that fluoride supplementation of drinking water should target a concentration of 0.7 milligrams/liter (mg/L). The previous recommendations were made in 1962 and had called for a target concentration in the range of 0.7 to1.2 mg/L.

The Effects of Fluoride

Fluoride supplementation of public drinking water is recommended because it helps prevent tooth decay and reduces the risk of cavities. Fluoride is believed to exert this effect by preventing the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the mouth.

Currently, fluoride is also added to most popular brands of toothpaste and mouthwash. It is also routinely added to baby formula.

Fluoride in Your Water

If you want to know whether your community is attaining or abiding by this recommendation, there are several ways that you can check.

  • You can inquire with your local water utility. All water utilities must provide their consumers with a Consumer Confidence Report that provides information on a system's water quality, including its fluoridation level.
  • Your state drinking water administrator or state oral health program should be able to help you identify the fluoride level of your drinking water.
  • You can also use the CDC's Fluoridation search page: My Water's Fluoride.
  • You can take a sample of your tap water or any other water that you would like tested to an independent laboratory. You can request that the water is tested for fluoride or any other chemicals. You would be expected to pay for this independent evaluation out of pocket. The cost may depend on which chemicals you'd like the water tested for, but this can run several hundred dollars.

In general, most of the water supply in the United States follows the PHS recommendation of a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L.

Alternative Fluoridation

Some communities, however, may not have the infrastructure to add fluoride to water. Public health strategies for providing adequate fluoride when the water supply cannot be easily fluoridated have included adding fluoride to salt or milk.

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

Most of the time, there is fluoride in bottled water, although bottled water frequently has a lower concentration of fluoride than tap water. In some instances, you can find bottled water that is not supplemented with fluoride.

The amount and concentration of fluoride in the bottled water that you purchase may be found on the manufacturer's consumer information website.

Tap Water in Other Countries

When you are outside the United States, the fluoride levels in the tap water should be close to the levels that are recommended based on the local guidelines. If you are traveling to a region where you do not want to drink the tap water, or you are unsure of its quality, opt for bottled water.

Fluorosis—An Unwanted Effect of Fluoride

The most commonly recognized side effect of fluoridation is a condition called dental fluorosis.

Fluorosis is a discoloration in the dental enamel that can develop in response to excessive fluoride exposure. It can affect people of all ages, but it is more likely to occur in children who are exposed to high levels of fluoride while their teeth are still developing.

Even very young children exposed to high levels of fluoride can eventually develop fluorosis of their adult teeth because they begin forming under the gums before they come into view.

Fluorosis can cause teeth to have white spots, particularly near the tips of the teeth that are furthest from the gums. In some cases, fluorosis may also cause the teeth to develop a rough texture.

Fluorosis is permanent, cannot be reversed, and some cosmetic procedures, such as whitening, may result in further discoloration of the teeth.

This may be considered a cosmetic concern, but is not generally believed to be harmful to teeth. Most studies suggest that people who have fluorosis are at a lower risk of developing cavities, although, rarely, populations with fluorosis have been found to have a higher rate of cavities, though it is not completely clear why or how this occurs.

To help avoid fluorosis, don't brush your teeth more than a few times a day, and spit about every 30 seconds until you're done with each session. Additional use is not beneficial and can increase your chances of developing fluorosis.

A Word From Verywell

There have been a few controversies regarding fluoride supplementation in public drinking water, although the concerns have not been consistently substantiated using valid scientific testing. Concerns regarding fluoridated water as a cause of hypothyroidism, learning disabilities, autism, and pineal gland calcification (the pineal gland controls your sleep/wake cycle) have all been raised without evidence of validity.

If you do not have fluorosis, there is no indication that you should be concerned about these controversies either. While fluoride should still be used in moderation, you do not need to worry about excessive fluoride exposure from drinking water or about exposure to fluoride through bath water.

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