Communities question fluoride in tap water

A new call for Missourians to take a second look at what's in their water has some concerned about what they're drinking.

Water, is the simplest of utilities, and in our country, a right for every American. Since the 1950s and 1960s, a cup of tap water has usually included something else as well. That would be Fluoride, the key ingredient to keeping teeth strong.

According to the American Dental Association, fluoride in community water supplies is safe and effective in preventing dental decay. At least a quarter of Americans owe healthy teeth to water fluoridation.

"Drinking water that has fluoride in it will reduce the case of decayed lesions and you will have less pain when you go to the dentist, will lose less teeth due to extraction. We don't have to do as much restorations with the teeth as before," said Ammar Musawi, MDS, A.T. Still University Associate Professor of Restorative Dentistry.

But while some believe fluoride in water is needed, others say it is not. Almost 75 percent of the United States population is served by public water systems that contain fluoridated water. But now, more and more Missourians are questioning why the chemical is in our water supply in the first place.

Over the past five years, seven cities and towns in the Show-Me-State have removed fluoride from their municipal water systems, and a half-dozen more have put the matter to vote.

"The good thing about having fluoride in the water is that we are reducing the decay in the mouth, especially of children and we can even reverse the decayed lesions," Musawi added.

Many of the cities and towns complaining about fluoride in water say they're getting too much, but can that really be a bad thing?

Dentists say yes, the case of too much fluoride is rare, but it can occur, and it mainly impacts children.

"If there is too much fluoride in the water, there will be some white spots on the teeth of the people ingesting it, and that usually happens with children," Musawi said.

That condition is called Dental Fluorosis, and can be treated by dental professionals when bleaching the teeth.

The recommended daily intake for fluoridated municipal tap water is three liters, and changes from town to town.

"It changes between 0.7 to 1.2 liters and that varies from one community to another," added Musawi.

In the City of Kirksville, small amounts of fluoride are added to the water in accordance with recommendations from the American Dental Association.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that every dollar spent on water fluoridation saves $38 that would have been spent on dental care.