Much has been written recently about the safety of drinking water in Flint, Michigan and other U.S. cities, and while incidence of water impurities certainly exist, nationwide water quality is among the best in the world.
All parents want what’s best for their children’s health, so increasingly, adults have opted to serve their children bottled water instead of tap water based on the assumption that it is the healthier choice. In fact, a recent study by Delta Dental Plans Association found that nearly 60 percent of caregivers nationwide say they are more likely to give children bottled water than tap water. Rates of bottled water usage are even higher among recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America where tap water safety remains an issue.The majority of survey respondents estimated that bottled water was better for their children’s oral health than tap water – an opinion that has largely been refuted by the dental community and public health experts.
Fluoride in our water supply provides vital cavity-fighting benefits for both children and adults. While some bottled waters do contain fluoride, they usually contain much lower levels than basic tap water. When U.S. cities started adding fluoride to the water supply in the 1950’s, the incidence of tooth decay decreased dramatically. Recent trends toward higher bottled water consumption may be having the reverse effect, contributing to rising rates of tooth decay in young children. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the percentage of children aged 2-5 with cavities has increased from 24 to 28 percent since 1994, and, the rates of tooth decay are significantly higher for lower-income children.
The easiest, most cost-effective way for both children and adults to get the level of fluoride they need to fight tooth decay is by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated tap water. For individuals living in communities that opt not to fluoridate the water supply or those who fear their water supply is not safe, there are fluoride supplements. Added fluoride can be administered via mouth rinses, sealants, dietary supplements and some specially marked bottled water. Ask your dentist to learn more about your local water supply and the need to supplement fluoride intake.