Fluoride has been used for over sixty years to help prevent tooth decay. Over 60% of people in the U.S. receive fluoride in their drinking water; some water supplies have naturally occurring fluoride in it and some have fluoride added at a water treatment facility. Since the onset of fluoridation of the water supply there has been a drastic reduction in the amount of tooth decay. In fact, the CDC has recognized fluoridation of water as one of the biggest public health breakthroughs of the 20th century. Why, then, is there a controversy over the use of fluoride in drinking water and as a dental supplement? Critics say that the safety and effectiveness of fluoride has never been fully proven, and that it can actually be dangerous to consume with resulting health consequences such as neurotoxicity, cancer, and fluorosis among others.

Studies done on mice have shown varying levels of neurotoxicity when these mice were exposed to fluoride. The first major study that showed fluoride caused neurotoxicity was done in 1995 by Dr. Phyllis Mullenix on mice. All the previous theories about fluoride that the researchers were working from were proved incorrect as the research went on. The mice who were drinking fluoridated water were expected to perform tasks similarly to the control mice and they did not. The fluoride was not expected to cross the blood-brain barrier and it was proven that it did.

Eighteen subsequent studies on fluoride and the brain have shown lower I.Q. levels in children with elevated fluoride levels, even after controlling for other factors that could cause the lower I.Q. such as parental education levels, lead levels, iodine exposure, and family income.

For all the studies that state that there is no association between fluoride and cancer there are just as many noting an association. Research has shown elevated cancer rates in cities with fluoridated water, cancerous changes in liver cells, and unscheduled DNA synthesis.

Fluorosis is a result of over consumption of fluoride. Drinking water is the most significant source of fluoride with fluoride in food, air, and toothpaste also contributing. Dental fluorosis results in staining and pitting of the teeth with some enamel damage possible at advanced levels. Skeletal fluorosis is a more advanced and serious case of fluorosis and results in pain and impairment of joints, muscles, and tissue.

The consequences of fluoride seem to outweigh the benefits, although dentists and other health professionals often disagree. Personal education about the risks and benefits of fluoride is necessary for each individual to make the best choice for themselves.


Fluoride and Water

Fluoride Action Network, Health Effects

Fluoridation/Flouride, Toxic Chemicals In Your Water

Worth Health Organization, Water Related Diseases