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Fluoride. What is it, is fluoride in Chicago’s water and is it right for me and my family? These are all very important questions that we will touch on in this month’s blog posting.

Fluoride and Chicago Water: What is fluoride and how does it work?

Fluoride is a negatively charged ion that likes bonding to teeth enamel. When the tooth absorbs the fluoride ion into itself, it makes a new material called fluorapatite. Fluorapatite is more resistant to decay than the naturally occurring material in your tooth called hydroxyapatite. It helps protect the tooth in a few ways: it helps re-mineralize the tooth, it inhibits demineralization of the tooth and it can help fend off bad bacteria. There are two ways we get fluoride; systemically in which we ingest it through water or tablets (or ingested toothpaste), and topically in which it comes in contact with our teeth (toothpaste, mouth rinse and in office treatments). The best age to receive systemic fluoride from the Chicago water system is during tooth formation which is birth to age 6.

Is fluoride in Chicago’s water?

The American Dental Association recommends community fluoridation and their guidelines can be seen at The city of Chicago does actively fluoridate its water to approximately 1.0ppm within the guidelines of the ADA (0.7ppm to 1.2ppm)[1] .

Is it right for me and my family?

This is a very important question and it varies from family to family, especially depending on age. We always encourage patients to do their own research to see what works for them and their families. Although fluoride is naturally found in almost all water sources, most communities will add an additional amount to meet recommended standards (0.7 ppm – 1.2ppm). As with most things these days, there is conflicting research on the safety of fluoride and many website that cover Fluoride studies and issues.

“The American Dental Association unreservedly endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay. This support has been the Association’s position since policy was first adopted in 1950[2].”

My personal opinion

I drink the city of Chicago’s water every day, and I believe it to be safe and healthy. We do use topical fluoride treatments in office to help fight cavities. I do not actively use systemic supplements for patients to “add” fluoride to their regimens, as I believe there is enough in our water to be effective. I believe in the use of fluoridated toothpaste given proper supervision (especially for children). I understand there is conflicting research out there about this subject and think if a person is wary about using fluoridated products, they should talk to their physician, pediatrician and dentist to develop a program that works for them and their family. After all, everyone has different needs and finding a healthcare provider that will listen to those needs, is very important.

Keep on smiling Chicago!

Kevin Dow DDS


[1] CDC-



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