Expert Q&A

Bottled water: Is it better for children?

Is bottled water better than tap water for my four- and six-year-old children?

- from

Not necessarily. The standards for allowable contaminant levels in both tap and bottled water are very similar. However, there are some differences to be aware of. One of them is lead levels, which can be slightly higher in tap water because water flows through lead pipes to our faucets. Lead pipes are not used in bottled water production; thus, lead is usually present in smaller quantities. With this information alone, you might decide to give your children bottled water. However, this is only part of the story.

The incidence of cavities in children is on the rise. Many dentists attribute this phenomenon in large part to the shift from tap water to bottled water, which has caused a drop in fluoride consumption. More and more people are turning away from tap water, which for over two-thirds of Americans contains all of the fluoride that they need to prevent tooth decay.

Most bottled waters don't have enough fluoride. Though fluoride benefits adults, it is especially critical to the health of development of teeth in children. Children who drink mostly bottled water may need to use supplemental fluoride that is available by prescription from dentists or doctors.

As you can see, the question of whether bottled water is better than tap water is debatable. To make the most informed decision, do some research on your local water supply. Your child’s doctor or dentist may know whether your water supply contains adequate levels of fluoride (between 0.7 and 1.2 parts fluoride per million parts of water). If your water comes from a public system, you can also call your local water authority or public health department, or check online at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) database of local water safety reports. If your research indicates that the contaminant and fluoride levels are in check, it is probably best to stick with tap water. If you choose to go with bottled water, a local or state health department or school of dentistry will typically be happy to test the fluoride content of your bottled water. Share this information with your family dentist and work with him to ensure everyone is getting adequate amounts of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

For further information on preventing childhood cavities see the following article from TheDietChannel: Oral Health & Nutrition: Dietary Tips for Preventing Cavities.

Erica Lesperance, RD, LD
Contributing Expert

Have a question for our Experts? Send it in!