Local dentists react to lowering fluoride in water

January 14, 2011 6:33:24 PM PST
The federal government is saying fluoride in our water may be too much of a good thing, prompting a new recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services for fluoride in water to be reduced -- the first such change in more than 50 years.

At Big Smile Dental they're cleaning teeth as they always do, and digesting word from Washington that fluoride in water, while still a public health triumph in reducing cavities, may have to be reduced.

Health and Human Services (HHS) says too many kids are coming up with spotted and mottled teeth, which is the effect of too much fluoride

"The American Dental Association are kind of a crazy group that's trying to put ourselves out of business. We have to be the only group advocating no tooth decay, and that is what we do for a business. So we really do have the public's best interest in health as far as the science we know of today," said Dr. Theodore Siegal, D.D.S.

HHS said Friday that fluoride concentrations should amount to no more than 0.7 milligrams per liter of water, which is the low end of the range the department -- and many state and local agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency -- have long held as safe.

Former head of the Illinois State Dental Association, Trucia Drummond, D.D.S., says we now have far more sources of fluoride compared to when fluoridation became widespread after World War II, so municipal sources can safely be lowered.

"You have to decide, do you want no cavities and a little spotting, or do you want more cavities and less spotting? If I had to make a choice, I would say we would want to take care of the disease and the cavity is a disease," Drummond said.

Chicago water has fluoride concentrations of between 0.9 to 1.05 milligrams per liter -- a narrower range than the Illinois EPA's 0.9 to 1.2 milligrams per liter -- but higher than what Washington now wants.

In a statement, the city says its water is safe, and by law, Chicago has to follow what the state sets as the guideline.

"We are working closely with the USEPA and the IEPA as they review the new (hhs) recommendations," the city statement said. "They are only wanting to reduce it to what we have considered the minimum optimal. And we'er more than happy to support that, and of course it will take a long time to see cut down on the flurosis effect," Drummond said.

ABC7 attempted to get an on camera interview with many foes of fluoridation but were unsuccessful. The HHS says, despite increased fluorosis, community water fluoridation is still needed.