Water and fluoride

What’s all the fuss about fluoride?

Now I must confess I stand undecided myself on the whole issue, we filter our water, but then we also – I believe – eat a lot of foods that are likely to contain fluoride and we use fluoride toothpaste (which I insist must be well rinsed afterwards). Incidentally, WHO estimates that the “swallowing of toothpaste by some children may contribute about 0.50 or 0.75 mg fluoride per child per day”. You will see what that all means as you read on.

What does the research say?

The information tends to suggest that at the end of the day it all comes back to personal choice based on an informed view of your own situation. The WHO guidelines (who most other agencies generally defer to), comment repeatedly that the issue of fluoridation is a local issue influenced by the individual and their environment within their community. In fact they go so far as to suggest that to get it right would require looking at the actual body weight, diet, temperature and geographical factors of each person.

Confused? Join the gang!

Pros and cons of fluoride

  • Too little and dental cavities increase.
  • Too much and tooth mottling and other bone related diseases go on the rise.

So you can see how this debate oscillates from one side to the other and why no real consensus has been reached, this simply reflects the research.

It is worth just saying at this point that fluoride does occur naturally in most water and in many foods albeit different levels from one area to another. Still too little fluoride and you risk dental issues, too much and you run the risk of dental and health issues (some of which are very serious). We know with reasonable certainty that fluoride at low levels (between 0.7 and 1.2 parts fluoride per million parts of water) does significantly reduce tooth cavities.

So what can you do to ensure your children get enough flouride?

Many dentists are well advised on the issue and your local dentist is probably best able to tell you about local levels of fluoride and if fluoride is required by you or your little one. You could try working out requirements yourself based on the water authorities’ estimates of fluoride in the water and assessing your diet and so on, but it really isn’t simple and I doubt it would be fun. So keep in mind that:

  • Infants under 6 months don’t require fluoride.
  • Water for infants is best after six months and when starting solids (given in a sipper cup). Some infants may require water due to issues such as constipation. Before offering anything other than breastmilk or formula to an infant not yet on solids check with your GP or nurse.
  • Reverse osmosis is indeed one of the best methods to remove fluoride and other compounds from drinking water.

Some other tips

  1. Offer both tap water (boiled if needed) and bottled water if you believe the fluoride is excessive in your area.
  2. Include natural sources of fluoride such as fish (with bones i.e. tinned), cheddar cheese, milk, garlic, fish, cabbage and kale, oats, rice and even corn has fluoride (keep in mind the levels are difficult to assess).
  3. Encourage your water authority or State Government to provide water fluoride data.
  4. Ensure regular visits to your dentist from early on.

What’s the situation in Australia?

In Australia un-fluoridated water appears to range from less than 0.1mg/L to 1.5mg (the higher value tending to be from groundwater sources). 1.5mg is considered quite high. Regions with fluoridated water may receive fluoride at a level of between 0.7 to 1mg/L (the higher levels tend to occur in hotter regions simply because you drink more).

Ultimately it is power to the people, information is your best way of making your decision for your family, like so many things it comes back to parental choice.

This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper from Sneakys baby and child nutrition. Leanne is a qualified nutritionist and mother of two very active boys.

For more information see Baby teething or Baby Care

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