We all know how important hydration is for our health – our bodies are over 70% water and it is important to replenish our reserves of water to keep our physical processes functioning. But did you know that drinking water can affect your oral health as well?

Drinking clean water is the safest and easiest way to keep your teeth healthy. However, recent studies have shown that a group of manufactured chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS for short) can sometimes make their way into our drinking water, which can contribute to tooth decay.

Several factors such as acid, food, saliva, and bacteria are responsible for the formation of plaque in our mouths and the subsequent tooth decay that can occur. Tooth decay occurs when the tooth enamel is destroyed, allowing bacteria to invade the tooth and causing painful infections. With this new research, scientists have shown that exposure to PFAS can lead to an increased risk of oral health issues.

Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that result from extensive manufacturing and production. PFAS are most widely known for their ability to repel water and stains. Though manufacturers have steered away from using PFAS in production, they were formerly used to make carpet, paint, cookware, cardboard, and many other products, and they still persist in our environment. PFAS are still produced in other countries in the manufacturing of products that are often imported by US customers, such as leather, plastics, and rubber.

Scientists have previously linked PFAS to an array of health problems – from high cholesterol to heart disease – after people were exposed to them through food. PFAS can make their way into our food if the soil and water used to grow the food is contaminated, if the food packaging contains PFAS, or if the equipment used during food processing involved PFAS. People have also been known to be exposed to PFAS when their drinking water supply was found to be contaminated, most likely due to infiltration from a nearby industrial manufacturing facility that produced PFAS. A recent West Virginia University School of Dentistry study conducted by researchers R. Constance Wiener and Christopher Waters explored how PFAS are contributing to poor dental health.

PFAS Exposure Risks

Exposure to PFAS is especially dangerous to humans because they can accumulate in our bodies, staying in our bodies for long periods of time and leading to adverse health outcomes such as decreased fertility, increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease, liver damage, and even cancer.

The study “Perfluoroalkyls/polyfluoroalkyl substances and dental caries experience,” first published in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in July 2019, honed in on how PFAS exposure affects dental health. The study, which focused on children ages 3 to 11, found that children who were exposed to PFAS in their drinking water experienced more rapid and severe tooth decay. Of the seven PFAS analyzed by Wiener and Waters, the study’s researchers, perfluorodecanoic acid most highly correlated with tooth decay and cavities.

“Perfluorodecanoic acid, in particular, has a long molecular structure and strong chemical bonds; therefore, it remains in the environment longer. As a result, it is more likely to have negative health consequences such as dental caries,” said Dr. Wiener, an associate professor in the Department of Dental Practice and Rural Health at West Virginia University. According to other research, perfluorodecanoic acid has more severe consequences for oral health because it disrupts the healthy development of enamel, that protective hard layer over your teeth that prevents decay.

How to Protect Your Teeth from PFAS Exposure

While you may not be able to know whether or not your drinking water supply has been contaminated by PFAS, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your family from PFAS exposure wreaking havoc on your teeth. The study found that failure to properly maintain and replace whole-home water filters can result in an increase of PFAS in water, leaving you and your family at risk for exposure.

The study’s authors also stressed that oral health can be maintained through proper oral hygiene routines and regular dental exams. Regular brushing and flossing are vital to preventing tooth decay, whether or not you may have been exposed to PFAS. If your drinking water supply has been infiltrated by PFAS, scheduling and attending your regular dental exams will allow your dentist to catch tooth decay early and help prevent it from getting worse or occurring again in the future.

Optimum Water Systems

Now that you know some of the health benefits associated with drinking water that is free of chemicals such as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, it’s time to find a safe solution. At Optimum, our water systems are free of man-made chemicals that have been linked to health problems such as tooth decay. Take a look at our selection of bottleless water systems and pick out the right one for you today!