The crisis of contaminated water in Flint, Mich., is making a public health message like this one harder to get across: In most communities, the tap water is perfectly safe. And it is much healthier than sugary drinks.
That’s a message that Dr. Patty Braun, a pediatrician and oral health specialist at Denver Health, spends a lot of time talking to her patients about.
“Over half of kindergartners have cavities,” Braun says, and the Latino kids she treats seem especially prone to tooth decay. She also notes that more than half of the Latino families she sees don’t drink tap water. And if the kids don’t drink tap water, she says, they don’t get the fluoride in it to protect their teeth.
Instead of tap water, many children gulp down sodas or juice — a double whammy that can mean more cavities and weight gain.
In some families, Braun says, a stigma against water from the faucet has been passed on through generations. And some recent immigrants, she says, hesitate to drink it based on prior experience with contaminated tap water in their native countries.
“If you’re used to living in a place where you would normally not want to drink the water because it’s not safe, then that’s what you’re going to bring over to any other new setting,” says Braun.