Water fluoridation is the act of adding fluoride to a water supply. When maintained at 0.7 milligrams per liter of water, the drinking water provides for the preventing and reversing of tooth decay while strengthening bones. Over 60% of Americans have access to fluoridated public water, which has been around since 1945. The process is hailed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
Critics, however, make a powerful claim that fluoridation constitutes a form of unethical mass medication without the peoples’ consent, and that there is little difference in oral health between communities with or without fluoridated water. The process also causes dental fluorosis (a discoloration of teeth) in children under 8, seen as white spots or streaks.
Opponents also make less warranted claims about the process contributing to several conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer. To date, the National Cancer Institute has found no association between fluoridated water and cancer.
On one side, the most powerful arguments center on the major public health benefits brought by water fluoridation that are backed by years of study from institutions such as the CDC and National Academy of Sciences, and on the other, the claims regarding an individual’s freedom of choice and ability to consent to medication, since fluoride is technically a drug.
In the end it comes down to individual values. Do you prioritize government protecting the dental health of its citizens– many of whom may not have dental insurance? Or do you prefer giving individuals the choice to use fluoride at their own discretion (even if that means they would have pay for it)?
Currently, the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water is endorsed by the WHO (World Health Organization), AMA (American Medical Association), BDA (British Dental Association), and the ADA (American Dental Association).