Is Fluoride Bad? — Taking a Closer Look at Fluoride in Drinking Water

Fluorine chemical symbol 9

This article was last updated on March 9, 2023. 

The topic of adding fluoride to drinking water supplies has been largely controversial for several decades. Many people support the potential health benefits of fluoridated water while others have voiced their doubts. Some have even expressed their opposition to what they consider forced medication by the government. 

Due to the longstanding controversy, we’re taking a closer look at everything you need to know about water fluoridation, including answering the two most prominent questions within this topic: 1) What are the benefits of fluoride in your water supply? and 2) Is fluoride bad for you? 

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that’s released from rocks into the soil, water, and air. All water contains some fluoride but not enough to have a significant impact on your health. So when dental research revealed that adjusting the fluoride level of a water supply can support improved oral health, water fluoridation quickly became commonplace. 

Public drinking water becomes fluoridated when the naturally occurring fluoride levels are adjusted with chemical fluoride to the optimal range, where the ideal water fluoridation levels are recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service.  Today, about 73% of Americans drink fluoride through a public water supply, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

But, when did water fluoridation begin?

The History and Use of Fluoride in Drinking Water

In January 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the world’s first city to adjust its level of fluoride in water. This community water fluoridation was intended as a project for monitoring its effects. What’d they find? Moderate fluoride intake does wonders for dental health: minimizing dental caries, also known as cavities, and strengthening tooth enamel. This meant that, for the first time in history, tooth decay was now a preventable disease for most people. 

In 1962, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommended that public tap water should contain fluoride levels between 0.7 and 1.2 mg/L to support public health and prevent widespread dental caries. But, in 2015, the department changed its recommendation level to not exceed 0.7 mg/L because many people receive added fluoride exposure through toothpaste, mouthwash, and other dental products. 

Despite the evidence, community water fluoridation has been met with controversy since its inception. Here are the pros and cons of fluoridated drinking water that have kept the topic so heavily disputed over the years.

The Pros and Cons of Water Fluoridation

Fluoride Pros and Cons Infographic

The Advantages of Fluoride in Drinking Water

  1. Minimizes cavities: Fluoride is endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the CDC as a safe and effective way to reduce and prevent dental caries.
  2. Reduces tooth decay: Studies show that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 25% over a person’s lifetime.
  3. Saves money: Having fluoride in public drinking water sources is the least expensive way to deliver the benefits of fluoride in water to all residents of a community, regardless of age, income, education, or socioeconomic status: For every $1 invested in water fluoridation, approximately $38 is saved in dental treatment costs.
  4. Promotes public health: The CDC lists fluoride use to support dental health as one of the top 10 most important public health measures of the 20th century. The greatest benefits are obtained by children who drink fluoridated water from birth; teeth made stronger during childhood due to water fluoridation would remain permanently resistant to decay.

The Disadvantages of Fluoride in Drinking Water

  1. Medication without consent: According to research, individuals against fluoridated water feel like this is an unethical form of mass medication where consent hasn’t been explicitly given.
  2. Challenges controlling dosage: Fluoride dosage can’t be controlled, meaning that people who drink more water ingest more fluoride. Excess fluoride exposure can lead to dental fluorosis, which leaves white streaks or brown stains on teeth, creates pits in teeth, or even breaks the enamel of the teeth. 
  3. More effective through topical application: Studies have also shown that fluoride works best when it’s applied topically — such as a fluoride treatment in general dentistry — rather than ingested.
  4. Lacks significant ties to health: Despite research that claims fluoride supports oral health, other studies have found no significant link between fluoride exposure and tooth decay.
  5. Developed nations don’t fluoridate: Most developed nations, including Japan and 97% of western Europe, don’t conduct water fluoridation on their public water supply.
  6. Linked to negative impacts: Even low levels of fluoride have been linked to negative health outcomes like bone fractures, thyroid disorders, and impaired brain development and function.

Find What Your Workplace Needs With the Quench Solution

Both the effects of and support for fluoride in water can vary. That means workplaces have to determine what water solution is best for their unique needs. 

If you feel the benefits of fluoride in water outweigh the costs, then Quench’s advanced carbon filtration technology is right for you. It removes sediment, chemicals, odors, and off-tastes from your workplace drinking water without filtering fluoride.

For teams that want to avoid fluoridated water supplies, we’ve got you covered with a reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system. RO filtration removes fluoride from your drinking water along with a variety of contaminants. 

Learn more about removing fluoride from water with RO filtration, and discover the cutting-edge filtration and purification technologies used across our range of Quench bottleless water coolers. Once you’re ready to get started, you can get a free quote or try our product finder to identify the bottleless dispenser that’s the right fit for your team!