Two-thirds of Americans drink tap water that has added fluoride. Unlike other chemicals added to water, which are intended to treat the water itself, fluoride is intended to treat the people who drink the water, whether they want the treatment or not.
As the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) puts it, “Fluoridating water supplies can thus fairly be described as a form of mass medication, which is why most European countries have rejected the practice.”1
In the U.S., many people assume the fluoride in drinking water is beneficial for their teeth, an assumption that has been widely spread by public health agencies.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnered with the American Dental Association (ADA) in saying fluoridation is “nature’s way to prevent tooth decay”2 — a statement that is both misleading and inaccurate.
The Fluoride in Drinking Water Is Not Natural
The CDC and ADA state that “some communities are lucky enough to have naturally occurring optimal levels of fluoride in their water supplies.”3
While it’s true that fluoride is naturally occurring in some areas, leading to high levels in certain water supplies “naturally,” naturally occurring substances are not automatically safe (think of arsenic, for instance).
When people are exposed to high levels of naturally occurring fluoride, severe disease can result. Data from India’s Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry indicate that nearly 49 million people are living in areas where fluoride levels in water are above the permissible levels.
The World Health Organization recommends fluoride levels in drinking water stay between 0.8 and 1.2 milligrams (mg) per liter and do not exceed 1.5 mg per liter.
Exposure to levels above this amount may cause pitting of tooth enamel and fluoride deposits in your bones, while exposure to levels above 10 mg per liter may cause crippling skeletal fluorosis, as well as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures and muscle spasms.
Further, the fluoride added to drinking water is not the naturally occurring variety or even pharmaceutical grade; it’s a byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry. FAN explained:4
“The main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as ‘silicofluorides’ (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry.
Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — more so than any other water treatment chemical.
In addition, recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in homes with old pipes.”
Evidence Is Lacking That Fluoridated Water Reduces Cavities
The ADA also claims that water fluoridation reduces decay in children’s teeth by anywhere from 18 percent to 60 percent. This, too, is highly questionable however.
The Cochrane Collaboration, which releases comprehensive reviews regarded as the gold standard in assessing public health policies, found water fluoridation may not prevent cavities.5
In a review of every fluoridation study they could find, only three since 1975 looked at the effectiveness of water fluoridation at reducing tooth decay among the general population and had high enough quality to be included.
The studies found fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth.6
Further, in the two studies since 1975 that examined the effectiveness of fluoridation in reducing cavities in baby teeth, no significant reduction was noted there either. Study co-author Anne-Marie Glenny, a health science researcher at Manchester University in the United Kingdom, told Newsweek:7
“From the review, we’re unable to determine whether water fluoridation has an impact on caries [cavity] levels in adults.”
While they couldn’t prove that water fluoridation is beneficial, they did find that it causes harm. About 12 percent of those living in fluoridated areas had dental fluorosis that was an “aesthetic concern.”
Dental fluorosis is a condition in which your tooth enamel becomes progressively discolored and mottled, and it’s one of the first signs of over-exposure to fluoride.
Eventually, it can result in badly damaged teeth and, worse, it can also be an indication the rest of your body, such as your bones and internal organs, including your brain, have been overexposed to fluoride as well. It is not only an aesthetic concern.
Tooth Decay Rampant in Low-Income Children Despite Widespread Fluoridation
African American and Mexican American children have significantly higher rates of dental fluorosis, and many low-income urban communities also have severe oral health crises, despite decades of water fluoridation.
The New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF) reported that rates of tooth decay among low-income children are on the rise even though record numbers of these children are exposed to fluoridated water (as well as fluoride from other sources, including dental products and medications).
Data set to be presented at an American Public Health Association Meeting in November 2016 revealed 40 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds living 100 percent below the federal poverty level have tooth decay, along with 69 percent of 6- to 9-year-olds and 74 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds.
“Claims that poor children need fluoride are without merit or evidence … It’s the dental care delivery system that needs fixing. Low-income Americans need dental care not fluoride.”
Dentist David Kennedy, past-president of the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT), also stated:10
“By focusing on fluoridation instead of diet and dentist-access, organized dentistry allowed a national dental health crisis to occur on its watch and created a new one — dental fluorosis.”
Is Water Fluoridation Linked to Cancer?
Fluoride was first linked to bone cancer in the 1980s, prompting the U.S. Congress to have the National Toxicology Program look into the issue. Their study, which was completed in 1990, also found an association, with higher dosages of fluoride leading to bone cancer in rats.11
Although the results were widely downplayed, future studies also found fluoride-cancer connections.
In 2006, a study published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control found an association between fluoride exposure in drinking water during childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma in boys.12 As Personal Liberty reported:13
“A World Health Organization study conducted from 1978 to 1992 showed that Americans living in areas where drinking water was treated with what the Environmental Protection Agency deemed was ‘optimal’ levels [of fluoride] had increased risk of cancer in 23 different areas of the body.
Male children exposed to high levels of fluoride may have a 546 percent increased risk of developing osteosarcoma later in life, according research conducted at Harvard.
This study, combined with the NTP study, combined with the studies that prompted Congress to order the NTP study, all add up to hard evidence that fluoride causes cancer.”
Why Are Illegal Fluoride Supplements Still on the Market?
A FAN investigation also highlighted the risk of fluoride supplements. Marketing these “supplements” as cavity preventatives violates federal law because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never approved them for this purpose.
In January 2016, the FDA also ordered one fluoride supplement manufacturer to stop production because the drugs were not FDA approved to be safe or effective. Fluoride supplements continue to be sold by many other companies, however, and are sold by the largest pharmacies in the U.S.
They even continue to be prescribed to millions of U.S. children, which is outrageous because not only have studies failed to find meaningful cavity prevention from swallowing fluoride but also because of fluoride’s toxic effects, especially on children. For instance, in 2012, a meta-analysis, also by Harvard researchers, clearly showed that children exposed to fluoride in drinking water had lower IQ, by an average of seven points, in areas with raised concentrations.14
Giving children fluoride supplements and fluoride dental treatments (which children often swallow) in addition to fluoridated water could increase children’s risk of fluoride’s numerous toxic effects, from low thyroid function and bone fragility to learning and behavioral problems.
Natural Cavity Prevention Starts With Your Diet
Cavities are not caused by a lack of fluoride but rather are often associated with dietary and lifestyle factors. Some of the true primary causes of tooth decay cited in the literature include:
- Consistent use of refined sugar, sugary soft drinks and processed foods in general
- Children going to bed with a bottle of sweetened drink in their mouth, or sucking at will from such a bottle during the day
- Poor dental hygiene and poor access to and utilization of dental health services, usually related to socioeconomic status
- Mineral deficiencies, like magnesium, which can weaken bones and teeth15
- More than 600 medications promote tooth decay by inhibiting saliva
In order to protect your oral health, the key is your diet and proper dental care: good old brushing and flossing. By avoiding sugars and processed foods, and eating fermented vegetables, you help prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay while promoting protective varieties.
How to Remove Fluoride From Your Drinking Water
If you live in the U.S. and drink water from a public source, there’s a good chance they are fluoridated. If you don’t know if your water is fluoridated, you can find out by contacting your local water department. If you live in the U.S., you can also find out by going to FAN’s State Fluoride Database. One way of avoiding the fluoride from tap water is to purchase a water filter. Not all water filters, however, remove fluoride.
The three types of filters that can remove fluoride are reverse osmosis, deionizers (which use ion-exchange resins), and activated alumina. Each of these filters should be able to remove about 90 percent of the fluoride. By contrast, “activated carbon” filters do not remove fluoride.
If you’re concerned that you’ve been exposed to excessive amounts of fluoride, the mineral selenium may be helpful. Research suggests it has protective effects against fluoride toxicity and may even serve as an antidote agent against fluorosis.16 Excessive levels of selenium may do more harm than good, however, so use this strategy under the guidance of a holistic health care professional.