Should Fluoride Be Added to Drinking Water?

Fluoride is a natural element that’s good for teeth. So what’s the problem?

he fluoridation of water is regarded as a key strategy in the prevention of tooth decay. Some people are very keen on it, whereas others object strongly.

Why on earth would anyone oppose such an apparently effective solution? After all, it is widely stated by health authorities that levels of around 1 mg per litre of fluoride in drinking water are associated with lower incidence of dental caries.

Opinions aside, nobody could doubt that we have a problem in need of a solution. Dental caries affect 60% to 90% of school children in the industrial world. Fluoridation is carried out because it is a treatment believed to prevent tooth decay and help strengthen bones.

Fluoride is the thirteenth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It is found in rocks, soil, air, and water. All water contains naturally occurring fluoride. Seawater has about 1.0–1.4 mg per litre. Rivers and lakes have less than 0.5mg per litre. Higher concentrations are found in areas with soft, low-calcium water.

Fluoride is poorly absorbed from soil by plants, with just a few exceptions, namely tea (considered a significant exposure route), barley, rice, and yams. Once in the body, approximately 99% of this element is retained in calcium-rich areas such as bones and teeth.

Fluoridation began in 1945 and is currently practised in approximately 25 countries across the globe. In the US, most municipalities fluoridate the water supply. The UK recently announced that a fluoridation programme is “expected” to be introduced across the nation soon. Currently, it is up to each local health authority to decide whether or not to impose fluoridation, and only certain areas do.

Europe, on the other hand, takes a much more cautious approach. Few EU countries choose to fluoridate the water supply, covering only around 2% of the entire EU population of 445 million people.

With the poor state of so many peoples’ teeth, you’d think that this would be a strategy welcomed by all. But it isn’t. Here are the three main reasons why there are so many objections to this ostensibly ideal solution.

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Image: Engin_Akyurt on Pixabay

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