Where Does Fluoride Come From?
Fluoride: As American as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving
We know that adjusting the fluoride in our water systems to the ideal level reduces cavities, strengthens teeth, and is an important part of a healthy life. But where does the fluoride that fortifies our water supply come from?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs in all natural bodies of water around the world. Like iron and calcium, it dissolves into the groundwater that we draw on for our drinking water. When there is not enough fluoride in water, local water operators add just enough to ensure the optimal level to protect our teeth. This fluoride is derived from natural calcium deposits in phosphate rock and then purified. These materials are also used to create a number of products that people use every day, such as cosmetics, ceramics, animal food, and soil fertilizer. Just like iron and calcium, we benefit throughout our lives from minerals that have countless additional applications.
Misguided activists who oppose fluoridation claim that the fluoride in our water is a “byproduct” or, worse, a “waste product” of fertilizer production. Scary words, right? But this distorts what community water fluoridation is really about: protecting our oral health. A byproduct is simply the additional or secondary output of a given process. Waste, on the other hand, is material that has no useful purpose at all. That is clearly not the case for fluoride, since its use in water systems allows us to continue the practice of protecting oral health for hundreds of millions of Americans.
Think about pumpkin pie. Fluoride is a byproduct in the same way pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie are byproducts of a pumpkin. The fluoride used to fortify our water supplies is a byproduct of phosphate rock processed for other purposes. Community water fluoridation, introduced more than 75 years ago, is as American as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.