Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports on new federal recommendations to lower levels of fluoride in the nation's drinking water. Too much fluoride, from several sources, is linked to tooth discoloration and streaking in 41 percent of American teens.
Americans Getting Too Much Fluoride, in Drinking Water, Toothpaste
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor:
In health news tonight, the debate over fluoride in our drinking water is back. Decades ago the debate was over putting it into the water, now it turns out the experts think we're perhaps getting too much of it. Our chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman with us tonight in the studio.
Take it away, explain this one.
Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN reporting:
Well, here's what we should remember, and that is the fluoride has dramatically cut the number of cavities in the United States. But tonight the HHS, the Health and Human Services, is saying to the Environmental Protection Agency that we have looked at the science and we are recommending perhaps some changes. Perhaps too much fluoride is now initiating a little bit of a problem, a cosmetic problem in some children. The concern is that some young children might be getting too much fluoride, and there's been an unexpected rise in a cosmetic condition called dental fluorosis. And that's when there's too much fluoride consumption during sort of birth and the age of eight when young teeth are being made, when those adult teeth come in.
So if you look at the normal teeth on the left, you can see normal coloration. But that streaking and splotching on the moderate side, that's a mild case of fluorosis. And that's what has people concerned, because we've seen an increase of that since the '60s. Now two out of five adolescents, in fact, have the problem. Now, in 2004, our most recent data, it's up to 41 percent of teenagers having the problem.
That's up from 23 percent in the late '80s. And that's the--that's the concern right now.
WILLIAMS: Now, what are the other factors at work here? Because it isn't just as simple as tap water.
SNYDERMAN: It isn't just water, you're right. Only about 64 percent of the country has fluoridated water. It really has to do with everything else we put in our kids' mouths: those rinses, the toothpaste, and all those treatments that the dentist can give. So the culprit really is about the extra fluoride that seems to be everywhere. And that's raising the question, is too much of a good thing, in fact, now causing a problem? Not to back away yet until we have all this data, but a reminder that all it takes is a pea size of toothpaste for a kid and then stand there and make sure they really brush.
WILLIAMS: Wow, has this debate gone full circle in our lifetime.
SNYDERMAN: And we'll probably know in a couple of months.
WILLIAMS: All right, Nancy, thank you, as always.
SNYDERMAN: You bet, Brian.
DENVER — The water crisis in Flint, Mich., is making some public health messages harder to get across — namely, in most communities, the tap water is perfectly safe. And it is so much healthier than sugary drinks.
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