May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Ask the Policy Center

Parent-Friendly Answers on New Fluoridation Guidelines

March 2016 Volume LI Number 2


Question: "I read online that the CDC changed its mind and now recommends a lower amount of fluoride in water. Does that mean fluoride isn’t as safe as you thought?"

Talking Points:

Thank you for taking the time to research this. As a parent myself (or as a specialist in children’s oral health), I have learned it’s wise to confirm what is best for our children’s health. 

Water fluoridation is proven to be just as safe and effective now as when it started nearly 70 years ago. It is important to the dental health of your child, as well as the other children of (your town).

Last April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its recommendation for the optimal fluoride level in drinking water to prevent tooth decay at 0.7 milligrams per liter, or 0.7 parts per million.

Back in the day, recommendations for fluoride levels varied from 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter based on geography, because water intake for children varied based on the temperature of the place where the child lived. Children living in cooler places drank less water than those living in warmer places. With more air conditioning and less active lifestyles, there is no longer a difference across the country in the amount of water children drink. Making water fluoridation levels consistent across the country takes into account these changes.

Sound science shows cavities can be reduced by about 25 percent when community water is fluoridated at an optimal level. (And by optimal, I mean the amount that provides the best balance of protection from dental decay while limiting the risk of dental fluorosis.) 

Tooth decay is the most common chronic early childhood disease in the country. In fact, as many as six in ten children have had cavities by the time they start kindergarten. The pain from tooth decay hinders many children from eating, speaking, playing, learning, and even getting a good night’s sleep.

Water fluoridation is still fully supported by this office, along with the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and hundreds of other health organizations. 

One of the things I value most about water fluoridation is that it serves our entire community and can have the strongest impact on financially disadvantaged families, especially those children most at risk of dental disease.


Gooch, BF. U.S. Public Health Service Recommendation for Fluoride Concentration in Drinking Water for the Prevention of Dental Caries, Public Health Reports, July–August 2015, 130: 1–14.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General.  Rockville, M.D.:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Accessed Dec. 12, 2015.

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