What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. Fluoridation [FLOR-i-DA-shun] means that fluoride is added to drinking water.
Fluoride is not a medication. Adding fluoride to water is similar to adding iodine to salt or Vitamin D to milk. These are routine measures taken to improve the public’s health. Seventy years of scientific testing show that fluoridated drinking water improves dental health. Currently, nearly 70 percent of Americans live in communities that add fluoride to drinking water.
How does fluoridation work?
The food we eat creates acids that cause teeth to lose their minerals. This loss makes a tooth more likely to decay. Fluoridated drinking water prevents or reverses this mineral loss. Fluoridated water enables the tooth to resist acid attacks that the original tooth could not handle. There are many dental benefits. Children who drink fluoridated water have fewer cavities, preventing the need for dental procedures. A damaged tooth may require a root canal, a crown, or extraction. Even fillings for cavities generally need to be replaced at some time. Each procedure involves time, pain, and possible financial cost.
Why add fluoride to drinking water?
Community fluoridation is inclusive. It provides protection to everyone in the community. This includes people who may not use fluoride toothpaste or do not have regular dental checkups. Experts endorse fluoridation. The nation’s public health agency, the CDC, recommends that all people drink fluoridated water.
Are there side effects?
Only rarely. Too much fluoride can cause white flecks or spots on teeth, known as enamel fluorosis. Generally, fluorosis occurs through long-term exposure to a fluoride level that is triple the recommended standard. To prevent this, a national standard was established on what level of fluoride is safe. Local water authorities take daily readings of fluoride to see that this proper level is maintained. Research on fluoridation of water continues. Indeed, fluoridation is one of the most frequently studied public health issues, both in the United States and abroad. To date, all studies show that fluoridation of drinking water is a safe and economical contribution to dental health.