5 common myths about water fluoridation
And why dentists recommend you drink fluoridated tap water…
Many parts of the developed world have been purposefully adding fluoride to our drinking water for over 60 years. We have a massive body of evidence gathered over this time, revealing that water fluoridation is still one of the most major public health achievements of the 20th century. The scientific consensus is that not only is it safe, but it helps to prevent tooth decay.
Water fluoridation is endorsed worldwide, by powerful authorities such as the World Health Organisation, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Dental Association, the World Dental Federation, and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, myths around fluoride abound.
Common myths around fluoride
Myth #1: Fluoride is not natural
But here’s the thing: Everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical, also known as dihydrogen monoxide (H2O). Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found in surface water and rocks that leach into groundwater. The amount of naturally occurring fluoride varies greatly around the world, depending on the type of water and a type of minerals and rocks it is in contact with.
You’ll find fluoride in natural water supplies, even ocean water. In some parts of the world, such as a particular belt in East Africa, there’s too much fluoride in the water for drinking. (WHO consequently classifies such areas as ‘natural hazards’.)
Then, there are places in the world, such as parts of Victoria, where fluoride naturally occurs – in levels that are optimal for our needs, that being 1 ppm.
Myth #2: Fluoride is toxic
Another common retort by the anti-fluoride brigade is that if it were safe, why are children not allowed adult fluoride toothpaste? The answer is simple. Children don’t have the same gag reflexes as adults and can easily swallow toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste has been designed to spit out, not swallow. If children swallowed fluoride toothpaste, then levels could be dangerous. Hence, we’ve created children’s toothpaste with far lower levels of fluoride that are safe to ingest.
Myth #3: Fluoride causes cancer
The only condition that may affect some individuals drinking fluoridated water is dental fluorosis. Would fluorosis, the fluoride affects how the tooth enamel is mineralised and results in small cosmetic changes such as tiny white flecks or lines appearing on the teeth. However, moderate dental fluorosis is extremely uncommon. Extreme fluorosis is even rarer.
Myth #4: Fluoride doesn’t work
Caring for our teeth, much like anything else, involves practising several preventative measures that give the best possible chance to keep our teeth healthy throughout our life. Fluoride is not the only answer. For example, we recommend brushing teeth twice daily, floss, avoiding sugary foods, having regular dental check-ups – and drinking tap water.
Myth #5: It’s a conspiracy
So please, for the sake of your teeth, drink fluoridated tap water. It’s cheap, harmless and will help you and your family have the best possible chance of good dental health.