Cavity Emptor: Don t drink the bottled water

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We ve recently reported on the troubling rise in the incidence of cavities among children, which may largely be avoided by ensuring that kids teeth are exposed to the proper amount of fluoride. One easy way to accomplish this is to make sure kids are drinking tap water, which has been fluoridated for decades in many areas of the country, for just this purpose. Unfortunately, however, parents who favor bottled water for their kids are unwittingly opting out of this important public health measure.

Many dentists and government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are warning that bottled water is not likely to have protective levels of fluoride. So replacing tap water with these products may be contributing to the growing rates of tooth decay among young children.

It seems that providing kids with bottled water is a popular practice, since a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics found that about 45 percent of parents give their kids only or primarily bottled water. But as the use of bottled water has increased, so has the incidence of cavities in baby teeth, which now affect about 42 percent of U.S. kids between the ages of 2 and 11.

As ACSH advisor Dr. Chic Schissel, a retired dentist, points out, Many enlightened parents are only giving their children bottled water rather than fluoridated tap water. The conclusion is a no-brainer: Proper fluoridation sharply reduces decay; avoiding fluoridation increases decay.

To prevent childhood cavities, Jonathan D. Shenkin, a spokesman on pediatric dentistry for the American Dental Association, advises parents to make sure that their kids are brushing their teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste (beginning at age two), seeing the dentist two times a year for a check-up and fluoride treatment (starting at age one) and getting fluoride in their drinking water.