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Think Twice Before Giving Kids Bottled Water

One recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics found that about 45 percent of parents give their kids only or primarily bottled water, while another in the journal Pediatric Dentistry found that nearly 70 percent of parents gave bottled water either alone or with tap water. While tap water contains fluoride in most areas of the country, bottled water often does not, or the levels vary widely.

“You should brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, see the dentist twice a year for fluoride treatment and get fluoride in your drinking water,” said Jonathan D. Shenkin, spokesman on pediatric dentistry for the American Dental Association. “If you’re not getting it in your drinking water, that takes out a component of the effectiveness of that triad.”

At the same time, tooth decay affect a huge number of American kids. About 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11 in the U.S. had cavities in their baby teeth, according to a 2007 prevalence study, the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study tracked rising decay from 1988 to 1994 and then from 1999 to 2004, when it was up overall about 2 percent. The data showed that decay affected not only more than half of children at the lowest income levels, but also nearly a third of kids in higher-income families.

That supports additional research by Bruce Dye, a dental epidemiology officer with the National Center for Health Statistics, which actually found that boys in higher income families had the greatest prevalence of decay. Whether that’s because it’s harder to get those boys to brush, or because parents in higher-income families are more likely to provide more beverages, such as juice, sports drinks — and bottled water — isn’t clear.

There has not yet been a definitive causal link found between bottled water and tooth decay, mostly because the issue hasn’t been studied due to a lack of funding for oral health research. But experts still contend that the continued popularity of bottled water in the U.S. — about 8.4 million gallons a year or about 27.6 gallons per person in 2009, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. — should fuel concern about kids’ consumption.


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