Tooth decay in children is still a serious problem in the United States, and it has grown worse since the 1970s when the rate of tooth decay among children actually declined from previous years. Currently, 28 percent of children 2-5 years old suffer from tooth decay, and this rate increases to 50 percent for children between the ages of 12 and 15. The use of fluoride has been instrumental in combating tooth decay in children, but not all people receive fluoride in their drinking water. Here is a brief history of fluoride usage in the U.S. and what measures you can take if your water supply lacks fluoride.
Brief History of Fluoride Usage
Most Americans get their water from municipal systems, but roughly 44.5 million get their water from wells that tap into underground water supplies or from drawing water from lakes, rivers, and streams.
Fluoride, a known cavity fighter, was first added to the water supply in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1945. An ongoing study that monitored the effects of adding fluoride to the water showed that the rate of cavities in children in Grand Rapids dropped by 60 percent within 11 years after adding fluoride to the municipal water supply.
Today, almost 75 percent of municipal and community water systems add fluoride to the water supply to combat tooth decay. However, this means that 25 percent of the municipal water systems in the U.S. do not add fluoride to the drinking water.
You should call your local water department and ask them if they add fluoride to the drinking water. If they don't, or if you are relying on ground and surface water that doesn't have naturally occurring fluoride in it, you'll have to add fluoride to your children's diet to get the same level of tooth decay protection that most American get from their municipal drinking water supply.
Adding Fluoride to your Diet
Fortunately, if your municipal or personal water supply lacks fluoride, you can provide food and beverages that have fluoride in them to protect your child against tooth decay. Here are some foods that you can feed your child so they get some fluoride in their diet:
- Fruit Juices (white grape, apple, prune, cranberry, cherry, and more)
- Infant Cereals
- Canned Fruit
- Canned Vegetables
You should also use fluoridated tooth paste when your children brush their teeth.
Tooth decay is still a problem for many children in the U.S., especially children who don't get fluoride in their drinking water, but you can still make sure your children get enough fluoride in their diets to help protect them against tooth decay now and as they get older. Talk with a dentist from a clinic like Village Family Dental if you have specific questions about your child's oral hygiene routine.