Fluoride in Water – Does Lack of Fluoride in Bottled Water Cause Tooth Decay in Kids?

fluoride in water

Health officials believe the lack of flouride in water from bottling companies may be causing increases in dental problems in kids.

Dentists are now saying that the lack of fluoride in water, mainly in bottled water, is a reason for the increase in numbers of tooth decay issues in children. Many communities supplement their water to add fluoride however the same cannot be said for bottled water which normally does not contain added flouride. Dentists and health officials believe that parents who are opting to provide bottled water to their kids may be hurting their chances of developing healthy gums and teeth.

JoNel Aleccia from Vitals on msnbc.com recently wrote about the controversy surrounding whether kids should be drinking bottled water or straight from the tap.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too, warns that “bottled water may not have a sufficient amount of fluoride, which is important for preventing tooth decay and promoting oral health.”

No question, many kids do drink bottled water. One recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics found that about 45 percent of parents give their kids only or primarily bottled water, while another in the journal Pediatric Dentistry found that nearly 70 percent of parents gave bottled water either alone or with tap water.

More than 65 percent of parents using bottled water did not know what levels of fluoride it contained, that study showed.

With all of the talk over the past few years about saving our planet and going green, you would have thought that the amount of bottled water drinkers (including kids) would have decreased but the stats that 45% of parents still provide bottled water to their kids was actually quite a surprise. As a parent, I really don’t think of the amount of fluoride my child is getting when drinking water but apparently I’m not the only one as a large percentage of parents, according to the CDC, are in the same boat.

Fluoride in Water

The article goes on to mention a study that was done regarding the rising numbers of tooth decay issues in children from 1988 to 1994 but there was no clear evidence supporting the amount of fluoride in water as being the main culprit.

To be clear, there are no studies to date that document a clear tie between bottled water and tooth decay. And the International Bottled Water Association, an industry trade group, notes that at least 20 of its roughly 125 bottlers do offer fluoridated bottled water — and that water is a healthier option than other beverages.

“In fact, bottled water does not contain ingredients that cause cavities, such as sugar,” the IBWA said in a statement responding to a recent New York Times story about a rise in dental surgeries among tots.

But Shenkin and other dental experts say it’s actually not clear whether there’s a link between bottled water and tooth decay, mostly because the issue hasn’t been studied because of a lack of funding for oral health research.

They contend that the continued popularity of bottled water in the U.S. — about 8.4 million gallons a year or about 27.6 gallons per person in 2009, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. — fuels concern about kids’ consumption.

“I look at it as parents trying to do the right thing, trying to be healthy, but being healthy doesn’t prevent [cavities],” said Dye.

Although I believe that there could be a slight issue with today’s kids consuming more bottled water, I have a hard time believing that the lack of fluoride in water from bottled sources is what parents should be focused on. Parents need to focus more on other things such as:

1. Brushing habits – making sure children are brushing 2-3 times per day using a flouride toothpaste.

2. Regular Dental Visits – kids should be seeing their dentists twice per year for cleanings and checkups.

3. Choosing the right foods and snacks – too much sugar in our foods these days is more of a problem when it comes to tooth decay than lack of flouride in water. Parents should monitor the foods and drinks kids consume, making sure they cut back on the junk foods that cause cavities.

Parents need to start right from the beginning, making sure young children just getting their teeth have a good start to dental care.

For all families, the key is to make dental health a priority, Shenkin said. Babies should see a dentist by age 1 and brushing twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste should start at age 2.

“As soon as that first tooth comes through in the mouth, it’s susceptible to decay,” he said. “If you wait until kids are 3 or 4 years of age, it’s already happened.”


So next time you go to grab that bottle of water for your child, stop and think about whether you may be hurting their teeth. A little bit of fluoride in water may go a long way.

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