Fluoride Myths & Facts
Myth #1: “Fluoride doesn’t belong in drinking water.”
Fluoride occurs naturally in water, though rarely at the optimal level to protect teeth.
- It’s already there. Fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies and even in various brands of bottled water. If the people making this statement truly believed it, they would no longer drink water or grape juice — or eat shellfish, meat, cheese or other foods that contain trace levels of fluoride.
- What’s at issue is the amount of fluoride in water. There are proven benefits for public health that come from having the optimal level of fluoride in the water — just enough to protect our teeth. In 2011, federal health officials offered a new recommended optimal level for water fluoridation: 0.7 parts per million. That’s our goal: getting just enough to help all of us keep our teeth longer.
Myth #2: “Adding fluoride is like forcing people to take medication”
Numerous scientific studies and reviews have recognized fluoride as an important nutrient for strong healthy teeth.
- Fluoride is not a medication. It is a mineral, and when present at the right level, fluoride in drinking water has two beneficial effects: preventing tooth decay and contributing to healthy bones.
- U.S. court decisions have rejected the argument that fluoride is a “medication” that should not be allowed in water. The American Journal of Public Health summarized one of these rulings, noting that “fluoride is not a medication, but rather a nutrient found naturally in some areas but deficient in others.”
- There are several examples of how everyday products are fortified to enhance the health of Americans — iodine is added to salt, folic acid is added to breads and cereals, and Vitamin D is added to milk.
Myth #3: “Our city council can save money by ending fluoridation of our water system.”
Fluoridation is one of the most cost-effective health strategies ever devised.
- A community that stops fluoridating or never starts this process will find that local residents end up spending more money on decay-related dental problems. Evidence shows that for most cities, every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 in unnecessary treatment costs.
- A Texas study confirmed that the state saved $24 per child, per year in Medicaid expenditures because of the cavities that were prevented by drinking fluoridated water.
- A Colorado study showed that water fluoridation saved the state nearly $149 million by avoiding unnecessary treatment costs. The study found that the average savings were roughly $61 per person.
Myth #4: “Fluoridation is a ‘freedom of choice’ issue. People should choose when or if they have fluoride in their water.”
Fluoridation is a public health measure where a modest community-wide investment benefits everyone.
- Fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies, so it isn’t a question of choosing to get fluoride. The only question is whether people receive the optimal level that’s documented to prevent tooth decay.
- It is completely unrealistic to make water fluoridation a person-by-person or household-by-household choice. The cost efficiency comes from a public water system fluoridating its entire supply.
- Maintaining an optimal amount of fluoride in water is based on the principle that decisions about public health should be based on what is healthy for the entire community, not based on a handful of individuals whose extreme fears are not backed by the scientific evidence.
- Fluoridation is not a local issue. Every taxpayer in a state pays the price for the dental problems that result from tooth decay. A New York study found that Medicaid enrollees in counties where fluoridation was rare needed 33% more fillings, root canals, and extractions than those in counties where fluoridated water was much more prevalent.