According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth.
26% of American adults between 20 and 64 have untreated decay.
When we visit the dentist, they give us fluoride to help prevent cavities. What many people aren’t aware of is that we’re also getting fluoride in our water.
There’s been some debate whether it’s smart to continue putting fluoride in our water. So, is fluoride good or bad?
If you want to know the truth about fluoride, keep reading. We’re sharing everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
The History of Fluoride
In 1901, a recent dental school graduate by the name of Frederick McKay opened up a dental practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He noticed that many people in the area had dark brown stains on their teeth.
McKay noticed two things. Those at the highest risk of these ugly brown stains were young children with only primary teeth and no permanent teeth. Those stains were also resistant to decay.
When the water was tested, it showed high levels of fluoride.
Fluoride Gets Added to Water Everywhere
In 1945, it was Grand Rapids, Michigan that became the first U.S. city to add fluoride to its public water supply. Five years later, after its schoolchildren were found to have far fewer cavities than those kids from surrounding areas, other communities joined in.
Within a few years, cities and towns everywhere in the U.S. were adding fluoride to their water.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluorides are compounds that combine the element of fluorine with another substance which is typically a metal. Examples of fluorides are:
- Stannous fluoride
- Sodium fluoride
- Fluoride monofluorophosphate
You can find some fluorides naturally in the water, air or soil, though levels vary greatly. Almost all water sources have some fluoride.
You can also find fluoride in some animal and plant sources. Dental products like toothpaste and mouth rinses also often contain fluorides.
What Happens After You Ingest Fluoride
Once fluoride is inside your body, it gets absorbed into the blood through your digestive tract. Fluorides then travel through your blood and often collect in areas high in calcium such as your teeth and bones.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) set a maximum amount of fluoride in drinking water to be 4.0 mg/L.
Is Fluoride Good or Bad?
As with many things, there are both pros and cons to using fluoride. Let’s start by focusing on the benefits of fluoride.
Fluoride decreases demineralization. Fluoride helps slow down the loss of minerals in our tooth enamel.
Fluoride also enhances remineralization. Fluoride speeds up the repair process and helps put minerals back into the enamel.
Inhibits Bacterial Activity
Fluoride reduces acid production. It does this by interfering with the activity of bacterial enzymes.
It’s also thought that fluoride inhibits the growth of bacteria.
The Downside of Fluoride
One reason the EPA has limits on the amount of fluoride allowed in our water is that it protects us from being overexposed to fluoride which can lead to bone disease.
Bone fractures can also occur when people are exposed to either very high or very low levels of fluoride for long periods of time.
Spots on Teeth
Too much fluoride can also mottle children’s teeth and cause what’s known as dental fluorosis. In a mild form, it can appear as white spots on teeth.
In severe cases, it appears as brown spots and weakened teeth in children who have yet to grow in their adult teeth.
Osteosarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer that affects larger bones in the body. Young males are most at risk of developing osteosarcoma.
However, there has only been one study that showed a possible link between fluoride and cancer. No other study has shown any correlation at all.
Impaired Brain Development
There have also been concerns about how fluoride affects the developing brain.
However, none of the studies have performed have proven there’s a link.
Why It’s Still a Bad Idea to Put Fluoride in the Water
While ingesting fluoride at regulated levels doesn’t appear to be harmful, it’s still not a great idea for most cities and towns to continue putting it in our water source.
Fluoride is the Only Chemical Added to Water for Medical Purposes
Fluoride is classified as a drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it’s used to mitigate or prevent disease. The FDA considers adding fluoride to water to prevent tooth decay as a form of medical treatment.
Any other chemicals that are added are for the purpose of improving the water’s safety or quality. Fluoride does neither.
Can’t Control Dosage Levels
Everyone drinks different amounts of water. It’s impossible to control how much water each person consumes every day.
Therefore, it’s impossible to control the dosage levels. Also, the person’s age, health or vulnerabilities are not taken into consideration.
Most Western European countries don’t add fluoride to their water.
They don’t believe you should force an entire community to take medicine without their full consent.
Fluoride is also not an essential nutrient. It also accumulates in the body and we can get fluoride from other sources than the water.
How to Reduce Your Fluoride Intake
Thankfully, there are several ways you can reduce the amount of fluoride you ingest. Here are our favorite ways.
Drink Better Water
You can reduce or eliminate fluoride in your water by distilling your water, drinking spring water or investing in whole house fluoride chlorine filters.
Buy High-Quality Foods
Eat real fruits and vegetables while eliminating processed foods that often contain fluoride. When cooking, avoid using Teflon pans.
Drink organic grape juice and wine since there’s no fluoride pesticides added to organic foods or beverages. Drink less black and green teas as these plants absorb high levels of fluoride.
Reduce Fluoride Intake in Children
Adults don’t get fluoride at the dentist, but kids do. If you’re concerned, ask your dentist to stop giving your child fluoride.
You should also find a toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride, especially if you have small children who might swallow the toothpaste.
Is fluoride good or bad? Like most things in life, moderation is key.
Increasing your knowledge about how to keep yourself healthy is also important. We can help. Keep coming back to read our latest tips in our health and wellness section.