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Can bottled water harm my kid’s teeth?

August 17, 2012

Americans are now consuming on average 8.4 billion gallons of bottled water each year, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. 8.4 billion gallons?! If you ask any person why they choose to drink bottled water over tap water, the answer is almost always, “it’s convenient and just tastes better.” This is true for adults and kids alike- bottled water is easy to pack in lunch boxes, take on family picnics, or stash in the car.

Convenience coupled with a chlorine-free, metal-free taste is what has made bottled water the new norm. While these may be valid benefits, some experts are concerned that those who exclusively drink bottled water are missing out on fluoride, a key mineral that aids in dental health. As more parents begin substituting bottled water for tap water, experts are now associating these new drinking habits with increased cavities and worse dental hygiene in kids.

What is Fluoride?

There’s a reason why kids get a fluoride rinse at the dentist’s office. Fluoride helps to strengthen teeth while also protecting them from demineralization that is caused by bacteria’s ability to produce acid from sugars. This acid can cause tooth decay over time. Fluoride can be found in many types of toothpaste, rinses, gels, tap water and even some foods. However, fluoride is most effective when ingested throughout the day, which can be easily achieved when drinking tap water.

What does this have to do with bottled water?

Bottled water is often stripped of many minerals found in tap water. Manufacturers can choose to add some of these minerals back in, but many choose not to when trying to reach the purest taste. Many parents choose to go the bottled water route because they are more afraid of tap water contamination than a lack of fluoride. And for many kids, it tastes better.

According to the American Dental Association, studies have shown that fluoridated water effectively reduces tooth decay by 20-40%. There haven’t been any studies yet that directly link bottled water consumption with increased tooth decay, but experts think that avoiding tap water may negatively affect our kids’ dental health. Consuming tap water is recommended as an easy way to get fluoride throughout the day. Plus, it’s free!

Good dental hygiene habits are important for all kids to help promote strong teeth and decrease tooth decay. Limiting the amount of sugar your kids consume, making sure they brush their teeth regularly, and taking them to regular dental check-ups are all ways to ensure good dental health. As we know, every little bit helps, which is why many experts recommend trading in our bottled water for tap water.

So next time you pick up a 24-pack of waters, ask yourself, “Is it worth the extra bucks?”.