Drinking water fluoridation was a mid-twentieth century innovation based on the medical hypothesis that consuming low doses of fluoride at the teeth forming years provided protection against dental decays. Numerous studies showed that high level exposure to fluoride could cause dental and skeleton fluorosis. However, there was limited study focusing on the fluorosis effect of low levels of exposure to fluoride. Therefore, our study aimed to examine whether the low level of fluoride exposure (measured in blood plasma and household tap water) was associated with the risk of dental fluorosis based on data of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2015-2016. We analyzed data in 2098 children and adolescents who had Dean’s Index scores, and water and plasma fluoride measures. The Dean’s Index score was measured by calibrated dental examiners using the modified Dean’s fluorosis classification system. Fluoride was measured in plasma and household tap water. In this study, we found that the rate of fluoride concentration in water above the recommended level of 0.7 mg/L was 25%, but the prevalence of dental fluorosis was 70%. Binary logistic regression adjusted for covariates showed that higher water fluoride concentrations (0.31-0.50, 0.51-0.70, > 0.70 compared 0.00-0.30) were associated with higher odds of dental fluorosis (OR = 1.48, 95% CI: 1.13-1.96, p = 0.005; OR = 1.92, 95% CI: 1.44-2.58, p < 0.001, and OR = 2.30, 95% CI: 1.75-3.07, p < 0.001, respectively). The pattern of regression between plasma fluoride and dental fluorosis was similar. Inclusion, our study showed that even low level of water or plasma fluoride exposure was associated with increased the risk of dental fluorosis. The safety of public health approach of drinking water fluoridation for global dental caries reduction are urgently needed further research.
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