The Debate Over Fluoridated Water
The debate over fluoridation goes back roughly 70 years to when communities began fluoridating water to prevent tooth decay. The issue: Is fluoridated water better for your health or not?
What public health experts say
After seven decades of evidence, every major health organization agrees: optimally fluoridated water protects your teeth without posing risks to your health. While almost all water contains naturally-occurring fluoride, the community water systems that serve most American households adjust the level, usually by adding fluoride to achieve the right amount to reduce tooth decay. Health organizations say this is one of the major reasons most people no longer need the dentures that were so common before widespread fluoridation, and studies have shown that it is why dental costs are lower and oral health problems have declined in fluoridated communities – outcomes that have an important impact on our overall health.
What fluoride opponents say
Anti-fluoride activists want to take fluoride out of every community’s drinking water because they are certain it is harmful. Their reasons have evolved over time. Today opponents rarely argue that fluoridation is a communist plot, as they once did. They contend that this public health practice is an infringement on individual freedoms and, despite the assurances of health organizations, that it is dangerous. And while the authors of the studies they cite dispute these interpretations, opponents still say that community water fluoridation causes a wide range of health problems, from bone cancer to dementia. Some even say community water fluoridation does not reduce tooth decay at all and argue that if people want fluoridated water to protect their teeth, each individual household should fluoridate its own water.