What about Water Fluoridation?

Fluoride is actually found to some extent in all natural water supplies. Water fluoridation is the process of supplementing this to the optimum level, at which it will be most beneficial to your teeth.

Frequent low doses of fluoride have been shown to be the most effective way of protecting your teeth and drinking water provides an ideal way to do this. It has the benefits of providing a local effect (around your teeth) and systemic effect (inside your body).

The advantages of water fluoridation are:

  • You get the right dose without actually having to think about it
  • It can be beneficial to large communities and populations simultaneously
  • It is a cheap way of improving a nation's teeth
  • It allows more effort to be put into treating other problems and allows the best allocation of dental resources
  • It gets to everybody- no exclusions.

The optimum concentration has been shown to be 1ppm and this will reduce the amount of caries by roughly 50%. I have worked in places that have been fluoridated like Birmingham in the UK and I have worked in places that aren’t, like the Welsh valleys. The difference is quite considerable. A week spent seeing the problems that come into the surgery in the one area versus the other would have you campaigning for fluoridated water.

You may have heard of people objecting to water fluoridation and wonder why that is…. Here are the main objections and my thoughts in brackets.

(i) Poisonous (yes, true but only in excess and this is true of many other things).

(ii) Of no value to some (if you have no decay you probably don’t need it but it isn’t harmful and is of considerable value to others).

(iii) Lack of personal choice/ individual freedom/ mass medication -(true… but for the greater good?).

(iv) Other safety arguments -(regular testing of water concentrations in my opinion is sufficient to keep a suitable check on the levels and any lack or excess can be dealt with appropriately).

(v) Other ways of getting fluoride -(true- but not in such a wide reaching public measure that doesn’t affect creed, colour or bank balance- everybody benefits).

What Studies have been done on Water Fluoridation?

There have been over a hundred studies on water fluoridation and its effect on reducing the amount of cavities people get in their teeth. The results are quite clear.

People who drink fluoridated water have approximately 50% less dental caries than those who don't, and yet some people still oppose the scheme whole heartedly. We learned very early on in dental school that fluoride was our friend and true ally in the fight against tooth crime.

Evidence and a far more detailed discussion of water fluoridation can be found on wikipedia

Interestingly in Scotland, fluoridation was stopped in certain areas and the result, a 25% spike in dental caries- I don’t think evidence comes much clearer than that.

Is my Water Fluoridated?

Great question.

Your local dentist should know, but if you are curious and wish to find out directly, simply contact your local water company and ask for the fluoride concentration of the water supply. Or just Google- 'Is (where you live) water fluoridated?' and the top hit will most likely provide you with more than enough useful information.

All major cities in Australia are fluoridated; the last to do so was Brisbane in 2002.