Dentists: Bottled water puts young children at increased risk for cavities

American Dental Association links increase in cavities to lack of fluoride

Ditch bottled water for a filter pitcher or an inexpensive filter on the kitchen tap (average cost, less than $30). Fill up a reusable bottle before leaving house and you could cut your drinking water costs by 75 percent. (Ferre' Dollar/CNN)

LAKE MARY. Fla. – For the first time in decades, the number of preschoolers with cavities is on the rise. There are plenty of reasons why, including poor brushing habits, sugary foods, even genetics.

But one of the healthiest drinks you're giving your child is also to blame: bottled water.

Samantha Taylor is on an anti-cavity crusade.

"We brush our teeth in the morning we brush at night before bed," she said. "We try to floss, but I'm not going to lie, we don't floss every day."

Still, her boys, Joey and Aaron, are catching on about dental hygiene.

"A few weeks ago, Joey decided he wanted to be healthy, not just for his teeth but for his body, and he doesn't take juice to school anymore, he takes a bottle of water," Taylor said.

On its surface, the water seems like a great choice. But below the surface that water may be missing something crucial to healthy teeth.

"People are drinking more bottled water right now. Some of the bottled waters don't contain fluoride like tap water," said Dr. Nicholas White, DMD of Lake Mary Pediatric Dentistry.

White reveals a simple fact that most of us have overlooked. Most bottled water is not fluoridated.

As it becomes a more popular choice for our kids, they may be missing out on the fluoride they'd get from the tap.

Taylor and other parents Local 6 spoke with were surprised.

"I think about juice. I think about chocolate milk. I think about soda. I never think about what kind of water they should be drinking," said Taylor.
And she's right. Sugary drinks and sweet snacks are the usual suspects. However, the use of bottled water has doubled in one decade. In fact, Americans are consuming more than five billion gallons of the stuff every year. That's one factor the American Dental Association is linking to an increase in cavities for the first time in forty years.

"Parents had switched from tap water to bottled water either to mix infant formula, for their own ingestion, or for the kids to eat or drink with throughout the day,"  White said.

According to the American Dental Association fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent, and that's protection you won't find in a bottled brand.
"Water is 10 times better than drinking compared to Gatorade, sodas, compared to juices as far as teeth go. The one thing it just doesn't have is fluoride," said White.

The dental community believes the bottled water issue most affects children 8 and younger... when teeth are still developing. After that, dentists say enjoy the bottled water, just be sure to get your fluoride.
"You get fluoride from other sources like toothpaste, there's fluoride rinses, there's still fluoride treatments you can have applied at dental offices," said White.

Consumers can find some bottled water products have fluoride added, such as Dannon's Fluoride On The Go, and Local 6 found gallon jugs of a product called "Nursery Water" on store shelves.
Local 6 also contacted Brita and found out their filters do not remove fluoride from water, but if you have a reverse osmosis filter in your home, it will remove the fluoride.