BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dentists at Erie County Medical Center said they were shocked to learn the Buffalo Water Board has not been adding fluoride to its drinking water for the last seven-and-a-half years.

Dr. Courtney Peterson has been a pediatric dentist in the city for five years at ECMC and said it could play a role in a recent rise in cavities.

“I’ve noticed a big uptick in kids with cavities and not just simple cavities like full-mouth carries,” said Peterson.

What You Need To Know

  • Dentists said they have seen an "epidemic" of cavities in the last few years

  • They said they did not know the city has not been fluoridating its water for the last seven-and-a-half years

  • The chairperson of the Buffalo Water Board said they stopped fluoridating the water when they had plans to upgrade the infrastructure, but were held up by the pandemic

When Spectrum News 1 reached out the Water Board, Chairperson Oluwole A. McFoy, P.E. responded in a statement saying:

“Buffalo is committed to fluoridation of our drinking water, which is why we have invested over $1 million to study and upgrade our current system. The plan was for the project to be completed several years ago, but like many things, was slowed during the pandemic and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Buffalo Water’s role as a Public Health provider is to ensure safe drinking water for all our residents. We initially placed the Fluoride Conversion project on hold out of an abundance of caution for water quality concerns related to lead and corrosion control. We partnered with the University at Buffalo to develop a state of the art Pipe Loop Laboratory, where they studied the treatment process optimizations over several years and concluded in November 2019 that: 'The results provide strong statistical evidence that the addition of FSA (fluorosilicic acid) does not result in increased leaching of lead.'"

While many things were slowed during the pandemic, Buffalo is committed to moving forward with the fluoride upgrade project. A statement on page six of the Buffalo Water Authority 2021-2022 Water Quality Report states:

“Our system is one of the many drinking water systems in New York State that provides drinking water with a controlled, low level of fluoride for consumer dental health protection. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fluoride is very effective in preventing cavities when present in drinking water at a properly controlled level. Currently there is an interruption to fluoride addition due to ongoing capital improvements associated with upgrades to our fluoride system. Since June 22, 2015 fluoride has not been added to your drinking water, and we do not expect fluoride addition to be restored until completion of various capital projects. You may want to discuss this with your family dentist to see if some other form of fluoride supplement should be considered for your dental protection.”

According to the report, the average amount of fluoride per liter of drinking water was 0.13 parts per million, but the recommended amount by the CDC is 0.7 parts per million.

Dentists said they were concerned about the fact many were unaware of the change, and they say if they had known, they would have addressed it with patients, especially with pregnant mothers who consume fluoride and help their babies begin to develop stronger teeth as young as 10 weeks.

“We probably would have been more proactive with some of our treatments,” said Peterson.

Now she said she plans to educate families on other ways to get a healthy amount of fluoride.