The 411 on Fluoride

The 411 on Fluoride

CREATED May 13, 2012

Reporter: Jennifer Waddell

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - There is something in the water in Southern Arizona but whether it's dangerous is the source of hot debate.

Read some publications and they say fluoride will kill you.  The FDA reports fluoride is one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.  KGUN9 did some digging and found the occurrence of cavities in Arizona is three times the national average so we set out to figure out what's in the water, what's in toddler products, and whether it's safe.

Optimal health levels are considered to be between 0.7 and 1.2 ppm (parts fluoride per million parts of water.)  Fluoride in PIma County is naturally occurring.  That means it is not added to the water.  No matter where you live in Pima County, the fluoride levels fall within that range.  If you would like to find out your personal fluoride level, contact Tucson Water.

Fluoride, especially in the water, is supposed to help reduce cavities in children.  So why, then, is Arizona's cavity rate three times the national average?

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, in Pima County, children with cavities have five or more; in Pinal County it's six or more; in Santa Cruz County, four or more and in Cochise County it's 5 or more.

For some parents, though, that information is a moot point.  They avoid fluoride and fluoridated products altogether because of research that links it to health concerns.  The website sites studies that show fluoride can cause health problems to the endocrine system and brain function.

Yes, there are dangers with fluoride, says Tucson pediatric dentist Michael Lacorte.  "If a child were to swallow a tube of fluoridated toothpaste, that could cause something called fluoride toxicity."   That condition could lead to death.  Another concern with high levels of fluoridation is something called fluoridosis, a condition that permanently browns and stains a toddlers permanent teeth.

Doctor Lacorte says, though, that when topically and properly used, research and studies have shown fluoride has extreme health benefit.  Lacorte told KGUN9 if toddlers drink our water which has naturally occurring, normal levels of fluoride, if they spit out fluoride toothpaste and mouthwashes, they are getting the benefits without risks.  Lacorte urged against using products such as bottled water, with fluoride added, unless it is prescribed by a dentist or pediatrician.