Benefits of Fluoride in Drinking Water

Did you know tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease – even more prevalent than asthma? Toothaches and dental problems can impact a child’s ability to eat, sleep, learn and socialize with other kids.

Preventing Tooth Decay
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth (plaque) break down sugars in food and produce damaging acid that dissolve the hard enamel surfaces of teeth.

The good news is that there are proven strategies to prevent cavities. For example, adding fluoride to a community’s drinking water is one of the easiest and most cost-effective methods of protecting children and adults from tooth decay.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists water fluoridation as one of “10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

What is Fluoride and How Does it Work?
Fluoride is a natural element found in rocks and soil, and a low concentration of fluoride is found in most waters. Fluoride prevents tooth decay by making teeth stronger and more resistant to acid attacks. It also helps with slowing down or stopping the decay process.

When fluoride levels in water are at optimal levels, it helps to protect teeth against cavities. This is why so many community water systems add additional fluoride – a process called “fluoridation.”

If your child is drinking bottled water with less than the optimal amount of fluoride, the risk for tooth decay increases. And if you use well water or water from a private source, your dentist may recommend checking fluoride levels to determine if supplementation is needed after reviewing your child’s risks for cavities.

What are Other Sources of Fluoride?
Toothpaste is another source of fluoride that all children should use. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends parents start brushing the child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth comes in.

For children under three years of age, a ‘smear’ or ‘rice-size’ amount of fluoridated toothpaste and for children ages three to six a ‘pea-size’ amount is appropriate. Parents should supervise brushing of younger children to assure they are not swallowing excessive amounts of toothpaste and help them with brushing techniques.

Fluoride mouth rinses can also help with preventing cavities, but they are not recommended for children under age 6 as they are not be able to swish and spit. Other ways to fight cavities are limiting sugar consumption and switching to sugar-free drinks, regular visits to the dentist (first visit at age one), and placing sealants (protective polish) on teeth.


Homa Amini, DDS, MPH, MS
Homa Amini, DDS, MS, MPH, is Chief of the Section of Pediatric Dentistry at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry with a dental degree and a master’s in public health. She received her specialty training in pediatric dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her interest is public dental health and health policy.

8 thoughts on “Benefits of Fluoride in Drinking Water

  1. The following are some good sources of information on fluoride and artificial water fluoridation: the Fluoride Action Network, Declan Waugh’s work, the books The Case Against Fluoride and The Fluoride Deception, the 2006 US National Research Council report Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, and the peer-reviewed journal Fluoride.

    The forced-fluoridation experiment is medical malpractice on an industrial scale. Fluoridation chemicals are the only medications which are delivered via public water supplies. Medicating public water supplies with any chemical violates the human rights and medical ethics principle of informed consent to medical intervention, is entirely indiscriminate, results in the random dosing of residents since the fluoride dose received from water and other sources is uncontrolled, and is environmentally irresponsible because the vast majority of tap water is not ingested, so the environmental load is vastly greater than it needs to be. Medicating public water supplies means that politicians are subjecting everyone to treatment which no doctor can legally impose on anyone, and is surely the most ham-fisted method of drug delivery ever devised.

    Medicating public water supplies with fluoridation chemicals is especially egregious, because fluoride is a cumulative poison with a half life in the body of around 20 years, there was no good quality scientific research which indicated that forced-fluoridation was anything but harmful and useless in the 1940s and there still isn’t any, the best quality scientific research which has been conducted indicates that forced-fluoridation is in fact both harmful and useless, the fluoride pollution which is used is industrial grade rather than pharmaceutical grade, and fluoride is not biodegradable. The forced-fluoridation experiment is authoritarian, an abuse of human rights, criminally negligent, irrational, archaic, pseudoscientific, and all risk, no reward.

    1. Dan – I will have to challenge your choice of words, “The following are some good sources of information on fluoride and artificial water fluoridation:” All references you listed are good sources only of highly biased information against fluoridation.

      The editor of the “peer-reviewed” journal, Fluoride, Bruce Spittle, for example in the April-June 2015 issue of Fluoride stated “While this {new recommended fluoridation level of 0.7 mg F/L.} can be seen as a step in the right direction, the editorial writer considers that, based on the empirical evidence available, no fluoride should ever be added to a community water supply.” It is obvious what type of papers the reviewers will accept for publication. Likewise, the mission of the Fluoride Action Network ( as stated: “The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) seeks to broaden awareness about the toxicity of fluoride compounds among citizens, scientists, and policymakers alike.”

      Your argument that adding fluoride to drinking water is somehow forced medication is simply a personal belief that has been invented as a convenient way to differentiate fluoridation from the common practice of forced chlorination which uses the highly toxic chemical chlorine and produces cancer causing disinfection byproducts. Perhaps everyone should be responsible for their own water treatment.

      All of your arguments and the fear-generating methods by which they are delivered have been carefully addressed by those scientists, doctors, dentists, government officials and water treatment officials who have the best interests of the public in mind. The consensus is that the benefits of community water fluoridation outweigh the relatively small risks of fluoridation. Also, there are well documented risks to dental health of not fluoridating drinking water to optimal levels (currently 0.7ppm). I list an extensive list of examples both of reviews of the practice of fluoridation and published papers that support the practice of water fluoridation – while acknowledging the known risks of exposure to the fluoride ion at levels significantly greater than 0.7 ppm on my website,

      For those of you still trying to make up your mind about the relative safety and risks of community water fluoridation, please consider all of the evidence – the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you are exposed to only the bad and the ugly, you don’t stand a chance of understanding the whole picture.

  2. Linnea Alexander on said:

    I can personally attest to the effectiveness of fluoride in our water. When I was a child, I had many cavities and lost permanent teeth as a result without the benefit of fluoride. My children had fluoride from the age of 8 or 9 and only had one or two cavities. However, my Grandchildren had the benefits of fluoride in the womb and in their drinking water and in additional products used during their life, and none of them had any cavities! They also have no side effects from the fluoride, just good solid enamel preventing any break in that enamel to produce cavities.

    1. PAUL KEENAN on said:

      You can not be serious. The fluoride added to water is a waste product of the FERTILIZER industry and NOT the naturally occurring type.

      FLUORIDE IS DANGEROUS. It displaces Iodine from the thyroid receptor.

  3. What are the risks of fluoridated water, especially for young developing children? And what is an alternative to reducing cavities?

    1. AF – I am disappointed that Newsweek would allow publication of a biased, fear-laced article based on a single low quality study. The article referenced below by Chad Hayes, MD did a very good job of describing the limitations of the study. Dr. Hayes closing comments include, “I’ll be honest–doctors and dentists aren’t perfect. Some aren’t even very good. But we’re not evil, and we’re not oblivious to the need to balance the benefits of our therapies with their potential risks. The thousands of pediatricians and dentists represented by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association aren’t trying to poison your child; we’ve devoted our lives to protecting them.” – another review. This analysis shows that ADHD is correlated more strongly with elevation than fluoride levels. The conclusion, “We should be careful of conclusions arising from such exploratory investigations. Firstly the obvious – correlation is not causation. But secondly the choice of data is crucial.”

  4. Joris Hines on said:

    Fluoride is the toxic waste from aluminum manufacturing. It causes fluoridosis of the teeth. It is the main ingredient in rat poison. It calcifies the pineal gland and other parts of the brain, and causes Alzheimers Disease. Who in their right mind would want it in a human body? The medical industries. That’s who. The government. That’s who. NEVER drink tap water or cook with it. Take cool showers, otherwise the pores in your skin open in hot water, and fluoride gets in and makes its way to your brain. When in a dental office, make sure they do NOT treat your teeth and gums with fluoride. It is banned in most countries, and they have to pay to have it safely removed from aluminum manufacturing plants. The United States buys it and adds it to municipal water supplies and toothpaste, and other products. The truth: They want it in you. It makes you a patient for the medical industries. It should be BANNED EVERYWHERE.

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