Where Science Stands in the Fluoridation Debate

water flowing in two connected faucetsWater fluoridation has been a part of every American’s daily life for more than seven decades. Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first US city to adjust the fluoride content of its drinking water supply and implement community water fluoridation in 1945.

Healthier Colorado – Fluoride Project notes that the discovery of fluoride in Colorado Springs’ mountain water prompted studies on its oral health benefits. By 1962, the US Public Health Services (USPHS) made a formal recommendation for the fluoridation of public water supplies to fight cavities. This is not to say, however, that groups opposing water fluoridation have not emerged over the years.

The Great Fluoride Debate Continues

Fluoridated water supply remains widespread, with 74.4% of the population having access to fluoridated public water systems in 2014. The anti-fluoride campaign, however, is making some headway with their cause. Several cities in the US have succeeded in rejecting the addition of fluoride in their drinking water.

Their reasons for opposing community water fluoridation include fluoridation’s alleged inefficiency in preventing tooth decay and link to cancer.

Support from the Scientific Community

The scientific community and dental professional community have supported and recommended water fluoridation for many years. This includes major health agencies and departments like the:

– American Dental Association

– US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

– US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

– US Community Preventive Services Task Force

Although the opposition touts fluoride’s alleged link to a risk for cancer as a major reason to stop water fluoridation, a review of old and recent studies show it has no clear association with any form of cancer. Moreover, the CDC says water fluoridation is the most cost-efficient method of fluoride delivery and helps lower cavities by 25%.

Safeguards in Place to Protect Americans

Guidelines regarding the fluoride content in drinking water are put in place to protect public health. It’s also been reviewed to ensure the public gets a safe amount of fluoride to lessen the risk of dental fluorosis while still preventing tooth decay.

The HHS now recommends fluoride levels no more than 0.7 milligrams per liter. Previously recommended fluoride levels of between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter were modified to account for other sources of fluoride available to the public.

The scientific community and the nation’s health organizations are working together to ensure the optimal health of Americans.