Fluoride is commonly added to water supplies in the United States in an attempt to prevent dental decay, however both the safety and efficacy of this practice are in question. Research has shown that fluoride’s protective effect against tooth decay comes from topical application (as in toothpaste) rather than ingestion, and that many negative health effects have been associated with the accumulation of this compound when taken internally. Infants fed formula made with fluoridated water have a very high risk of dental fluorosis, causing permanent damage to the developing teeth. Fluoride also poses risks to the developing brain and skeletal system of children, so it is not just a cosmetic issue. In fact, in January of 2011 the CDC lowered its recommendation for the amount of fluoride that may be safely added to water supplies by almost half due to the fact that 40% of American children have some degree of dental fluorosis. Ingested fluoride is stored in the bones and accumulates over a lifetime and may increase the risk for bone fracture and bone cancer. It is also known to impair thyroid function.
I am opposed to the public being mass medicated with fluoride due to its questionable benefit to risk ratio. Fluoride is not a required nutrient for the human body. The silicofluoride that is added to our drinking water is not the naturally occurring calcium fluoride, but rather an industrial waste product. Once fluoride is introduced into the water supply it is difficult to remove as it passes right through most water filters due to its small molecular size. Individuals should be able to choose whether or not they want to take fluoride internally. Like any other medication, fluoride should be targeted to individuals whose health practitioners determine they need it rather than dosing the entire population, especially since the dosage cannot be controlled.
Dental caries have been on the rise over the past decade in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities alike. There are many possible factors contributing to this increase, such as poor nutrition and the ever-increasing consumption of soft drinks. A 2005 Tufts University study revealed that sodas and fruit-flavored drinks have replaced white bread as the number one calorie source in America! The sugars and acids in these beverages are well known to promote tooth decay. From the research of Weston A. Price, DDS we know that societies who abandoned their traditional vitamin and mineral-rich diets in favor of white flour, sugar and vegetable oils experienced rampant tooth decay. Oral health truly reflects the health of the entire body and must be approached holistically. Just adding fluoride to our water does not in any way replace the need for good nutrition, dental hygiene, and regular dental visits. Since fluoride is a medication with questionable efficacy and risk of harm, it is ethically wrong to make it a universal prescription by putting it into the water we cannot live without.