Fluoridation is generally known as the addition of fluoride to the municipal water supply. However, what most people do not know is that fluoridation can also mean the removal of excess fluoride that occurs naturally in groundwater. Fluoride is a natural component of groundwater, and it occurs naturally everywhere in the world, in varying amounts. The process of fluoridation is to adjust the fluoride content of the water to the most healthful level.
Years of research and testing in different cities and states, conducted by the National Health Service, has determined that one part per million is the ideal proportion, giving a substantial protection from tooth decay, and avoiding dental fluorosis. Ever since then, it has been the standard practice to regulate fluoride levels in municipal water supplies to one part per million. There has been broad scientific and medical consensus for decades that one part per million of fluoride is best for health, and exactly zero rigorously conducted scientific trials that have indicated any sign of danger. For all practical purposes, it is an over-and-done-with issue.
[For evidences and studies, skip down to the section entitled “Safety”]
Of course, this has not stopped conspiracy theorists and cranks from trying to convince people that fluoride in the water supply is everything from an outright poison to a government mind-controlling agent. As I have explained above and you will see below, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that fluoride in the water is anything other than beneficial to the general health of your teeth or that it is dangerous. But that’s exactly what the government wants me to think, right conspiracy mongers?
To trust this discussion, you have to trust the government enough to accept the facts promoted by the CDC and the NHS. If that sounds like to daunting a task, ask yourself, what are the chances that they are lying to you or suppressing information? You would have to accept that the government, as clumsy and lumbering as we know it to be, has the time, resources, and infrastructure to simultaneously:
- Control each and every scientist who has a study about fluoridation
- Control each and every website that promotes the use of fluoridation
- Have significant private control of the infrastructure of the internet
- Keep every government employee or scientist who knew about fluoridation for the last 45 years from mentioning 1 word about its supposed dangers
- Have the time and resources to conduct all these suppressive operations
- Have a motive to “poison” the population, etc.
Does all this sound possible to you?
Like many public health programs, water fluoridation is criticized by a small yet highly vocal group. This mostly consists of fringe scientists and scared parents, the former hawking their crank theories, the latter trying to protect their children (however uncritically). This group’s tactics are pretty standard for conspiracy theorists: their process is to flood the mass media with as many claims as they can invent. These range from fears about cancer, poisonous chemicals, and illness, to fake “scientific controversies”.
However there is a problem for cancer and illness claims: there are no known victims. If there was a problem with municipal fluoridation, wouldn’t we have at least a few people who showed some signs of harm after 65 years? And it is true that fluoride can be a poisonous chemical, but then again, so can sugar, in the correct dosage. Following this argument, where is the Anti-Chlorine lobby? Chlorine is another deadly chemical, yet it disinfects our water. Government conspiracy? Nope. Just saving you from the most horrible water-borne diseases known to man. The fact that the anti-fluoridation lobby doesn’t make this point about chlorine being a poison (which it can be), shows how they do not value evidence or science. Chemicals are scary to them, and that is that.
Just take a look at some of their propaganda:
Furthermore, a simple comparison of areas that do and do not fluoridate their water supply could easily disprove the “mind-control” claims. I do not see many brainless government-lovers stumbling around, do you?
You’ll also hear the claim that fluoridation has been banned in Europe. This is completely untrue. In Europe it’s more common to fluoridate salt instead of water, thus bringing the same benefits via a different delivery method.
Lastly, the claim that fluoride is dangerous is in itself a ridiculous one. The same people who rally against fluoride in the water go home and brush their teeth with the same chemical. If you are of this generation or the earlier one, this means that despite decades of putting fluoride into your mouth and on your teeth, you are completely fine. If it is in toothpaste it is safe but not in the water? This sort of mindless fear-mongering renders the claims baseless.
All in all, fluoridation is perfectly safe, and the benefits are hard to ignore: $1 invested in this preventive measure yields approximately $38-50 savings in dental treatment costs. And, as Brian Dunning from Skeptoid.com puts it:
If fluoridation is truly just another conspiracy, then at least this is one that saves money.
So water fluoridation is safe, effective, and saves money (and teeth). There are no physical harms for which there is any evidence for, and the government is not controlling your mind. If you need more proof, below I have outlined the history, safety, and science behind water fluoridation. But of course, that is exactly what the government would want me to do…
Nearly all naturally occurring water sources contain fluoride—a mineral that has been proven to prevent, and even reverse, tooth decay. Fluoride helps to remineralize tooth surfaces and prevents cavities from continuing to form.
In the 1930s, dental scientists documented that the occurrence and severity of tooth decay was lower among people whose water supplies contained higher levels of natural fluoride. Extensive studies followed and discovered that fluoride, when present in the mouth, can become concentrated in plaque and saliva, helping to prevent the breakdown of enamel minerals. In 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, added fluoride to its municipal water system. Community water fluoridation—adjusting the amount of fluoride in an area’s water supply to a level that helps to prevent tooth decay and promote oral health—had begun. Since then, numerous scientific studies and comprehensive reviews have continually recognized fluoridation as an effective way to prevent tooth decay.
Benefits of Fluoridation
Water fluoridation prevents tooth decay mainly by providing teeth with frequent contact with low levels of fluoride throughout each day and throughout life. Even today, with other available sources of fluoride, studies show that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 25 percent over a person’s lifetime.
Community water fluoridation is not only safe and effective, but it is also cost-saving and the least expensive way to deliver the benefits of fluoride to all residents of a community. It is also cost-effective because every $1 invested in this preventive measure yields approximately $38 savings in dental treatment costs.
Currently, more than 195 million people in the United States are served by public water supplies containing enough fluoride to protect teeth. The current population with access to fluoridated water is approximately 72 percent.
During the 20th century, the health and life expectancy of persons residing in the United States improved dramatically. Since 1900, the average lifespan of persons in the United States has lengthened by greater than 30 years; 25 years of this gain are attributable to advances in public health.
According to the MMWR, water fluoridation is one of the greatest public health achievements in the past 100 years. Among fluoridation on the list:
- Motor-vehicle safety
- Safer workplaces
- Control of infectious diseases
- Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke
- Safer and healthier foods
- Healthier mothers and babies
- Family planning
- Fluoridation of drinking water
- Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard
To address safety claims, here are a few more things to look at:
The CDC on Safety:
Discovery of the decay-preventing effects of naturally occurring fluoride in water led to the start of community water fluoridation in 1945. For more than 65 years, water fluoridation has undergone extensive scientific studies and reviews to assess its public health benefits and risks.
For many years, panels of experts from different health and scientific fields have provided strong evidence that water fluoridation is safe and effective.–CDC
Do you know why we don’t get malaria in this country? The CDC. That sounds like a good reason to trust them.
National Academy of Sciences on Fluoride in Drinking Water:
The National Academy of Sciences, including its National Research Council (NRC), has considered the health effects of fluoride in drinking water on several occasions. Additional information on the NRC and its reports can be found on National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on Fluoride in Drinking Water.
The proper amount of fluoride helps prevent and control tooth decay. Fluoride ingested during tooth development can also result in a range of changes in tooth enamel. Because dental fluorosis is a condition that occurs when teeth are forming, only children aged 8 years old or younger are at risk. Children older than 8 years, adolescents, and adults are not susceptible to dental fluorosis.
The safety of fluoride in drinking water at levels recommended for preventing tooth decay has been affirmed by numerous scientific and professional groups. Scientists have found a lack of evidence to show an association between water fluoridation and a negative impact on people, plants, or animals.
Three additives—sodium fluoride, sodium fluorosilicate, and fluorosilicic acid—may be used to adjust the natural fluoride levels in water to concentrations that prevent or control tooth decay.
Systematic and Evidence-based Reviews
These are comprehensive reviews on the science available to determine the benefits and effectiveness of community water fluoridation.
Recommendations for Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Dental Caries in the United States. MMWR, August 17, 2001;50(RR–14):1–42. Also available as a PDF file (PDF 373K).
Provides guidance to health care providers, public health officials, policymakers, and the general public on how to achieve maximum protection against tooth decay while using dental care resources efficiently and minimizing any cosmetic concerns.
Reviews of Evidence on Interventions to Prevent Dental Caries, Oral and Pharyngeal Cancers, and Sports-Related Craniofacial Injuries*
From the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, provides information on the studies used in the evidence review on community water fluoridation, the suitability of the study designs, and quality of the evidence used to determine the magnitude of effectiveness of community water fluoridation.
Promoting Oral Health: Interventions for Preventing Dental Caries, Oral and Pharyngeal Cancers, and Sports-Related Craniofacial Injuries
MMWR, November 30, 2001;50(RR21);1–13.
Reinforces the evidence-based prevention activities of community water fluoridation and school-based or school–linked dental sealant programs.
A Systematic Review of Public Water Fluoridation
Done by the University of York in the United Kingdom, this is a systematic review of the best available evidence on positive and negative effects of community water fluoridation.
Review of Fluoride: Benefits and Risks
Comprehensive review and evaluation of the public health benefits and risks of fluoride from drinking water and other sources by the U.S. Public Health Service.