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What is Fluoride?

Fluorides are naturally occurring minerals known for preventing tooth cavities. A common way for people to get fluoride is through drinking water. It is often added to drinking water by community water systems when concentrations are very low. Private well owners need to test their water to know the concentrations.

The secondary safe drinking water standard for fluoride is 2 mg/L. This secondary standard is based on cosmetic considerations such as tooth discoloration (dental fluorosis). However, the primary safe drinking water standard for fluoride is 4 mg/L, to protect from skeletal effects. Therefore, people drinking private well water with over 2 mg/L of fluoride, but less than 4 mg/L of fluoride, should consider water treatment or an alternate safe source of drinking water (such as bottled water). It is recommended that people who drink water containing fluoride over 4 mg/L treat their water or choose an alternate source of water such as bottled water. This is to reduce the risk over many years of health problems.

Fluoride in Private Wells, New Mexico

Fluoride levels in water samples from private wells vary between New Mexico counties and even within the same county. The groundwater system in New Mexico is very complex. This complexity can lead to large fluoride concentration variability even among neighboring wells. Therefore, to know the fluoride concentration in your water from your own well, you need to test.

The information available on this section, including the maps, demonstrates fluoride found in tested private wells in New Mexico based on the data available from various sources.

Interpolated groundwater fluoride concentrations (mg/L) from private wells data Dec. 1950 - Nov. 2018
Average fluoride distribution in groundwater by county (mg/L) from private wells data Dec. 1950 - Nov. 2018
Percentage of samples exceeding the secondary EPA MCL of 2 mg/L for fluoride: private wells data Dec. 1950 - Nov. 2018.
Percentage of samples exceeding the primary EPA MCL of 4 mg/L for fluoride: private wells data Dec. 1950 - Nov. 2018.

Fluoride and Oral (Dental) Health

Fluoride in drinking water can help prevent dental cavities but it must be just the right amount - not too much and not too little. (Too much fluoride has negative health effects and not enough could mean increased tooth decay).

The ideal amount of fluoride in drinking water for oral health benefits, per the CDC, is 0.7 mg/L. Knowing the amount of fluoride in your drinking water could help your dentist tailor your treatments and better advise you about your daily regime, such as using toothpaste with fluoride. Talk to your oral health professional about the amount of fluoride in your private well drinking water.

Skeletal fluorosis resulting from too much fluoride, can occur with exposure to large amounts of fluoride over long periods of time. The effects range from increased bone density to severe deformity. However, reported cases of skeletal fluorosis are extremely rare in the United States and are often associated with malnutrition.

Water fluoridation

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes water fluoridation to be one of the top 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century due to its impact on Oral Health. To prevent cavities, dentists recommend getting just the right amount of fluoride in two ways:

  • Swallowing it from your drinking water,
  • putting onto the tooth surface, such as through toothpaste, mouthwash or dental treatment.

Does your dentist know where your drinking water comes from?

NM EPHT Partnership with NMDOH Office of Oral Health

The New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking (NM EPHT) Program partners with the New Mexico Office of Oral Health (OOH) to increase the application of environmental health data in the dental field and to increase knowledge about oral health. Both programs are part of the New Mexico Department of Health. The services provided by the OOH include increasing access to dental care along with promoting oral health as part of general health.

The OOH continues to work with NM EPHT to educate the public and dental professionals about drinking water quality and fluoride.

Public Water Systems and Fluoride

If you get your water from a public drinking water system, contact:
  • Your community water system by telephone
  • Look up your community water system online through the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Drinking Water Watch
  • Call the NMED Drinking Water Bureau, TOLL FREE 1-877-654-8720