Fluoride is added to the majority of U.S. water systems as a way to slow tooth decay and prevent cavities. Photo by CC/Kamel15
WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- For the first time in 50 years, the U.S. government is advising municipalities to adjust the levels of fluoride in their water.
Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services announced to fluoridation guidelines on Monday, calling on water supply managers to lower levels to 0.7 milligrams per liter. Prior recommendations advised cities and towns to shoot for somewhere between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter.
Health officials made the change as a precautionary measure, in order to ensure Americans don't get too much of the mineral. Officials began adding fluoride to local water supplies in the 1960s as a strategy to curb cavities and slow tooth decay. About 75 percent of all water in the U.S. is now treated with fluoride.
Health officials insist that fluoride is as important as ever; the CDC recently called it one of the ten most significant public health developments of the 20th century.
"The public should not take this news as a recommendation to avoid fluoridated water," Dr. Gretchen Henson, a pediatric dentist in New York City, told HealthDay News. "Fluoride in the right amount is very important for dental health. We see significantly more cavities among children who only drink bottled water or live in areas where water is not fluoridated."
"The need for community water fluoridation still continues," Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, the deputy surgeon general said in a statement released Monday.
But the mineral is increasingly available in fresh foods, and officials say too much of the mineral can cause dental fluorosis, a cosmetic condition where by spotting appears on the teeth. For this reason, levels should be pushed towards the low end of the previously recommended range.