Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Fluoride

There are many myths surrounding fluoride in drinking water. During the Red Scare, some people thought water fluoridation was some kind of Soviet communist plot. I’m a little fuzzy on what the Soviets would get out of that, but it’s best not to let reason get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

That’s on the kooky end of the spectrum. Surely nobody still believes that, right?

But there are other, more serious claims. For example, have you heard that fluoride in our drinking water is damaging our health and our intelligence?

Luckily for us, there actually isn’t much to back up these claims. It’s true that exposure to excessive amounts of fluoride can be damaging to your health, but I’d like to put the emphasis on excessive. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined 4.0 mg/L or 4.0 ppm (2.0 ppm for purely cosmetic effects) to be a safe level. But that’s not what’s actually in fluoridated water. The Department of Health and Human Services determined that the optimal level of fluoride in tap water to be about 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. It’s well within the safety range. Even if you drink fluoridated water and brush your teeth with a toothpaste that contains fluoride, you’re unlikely to to get an excessive dose.

Excessive use of fluoride has been shown to cause dental fluorosis, which causes white speckling or pitting on tooth surfaces, and, like with most things, children are the most at risk. But that doesn’t mean that fluoride is bad and that we should stop putting it in our water. In fact, the vast majority of kids will be fine. You should only be careful if you happen to live in an area that has naturally occurring fluoride in excess of 2.0 ppm.

There has also been concern over an alleged link between fluoridated water and cancer, specifically a rare cancer called osteosarcoma. This link has been studied, and found to be nonexistent.

In the early 1990s, the National Cancer Institute reviewed the literature to see if the link was real. The NCI found that the link just wasn’t there.

The NCI study identified no trends in cancer risk which could be attributed to the introduction of fluoride into drinking water. The study examined nationwide moronity data and incidence data from counties in Iowa and the Seattle, Washington, metropolitan area. There were no consistent differences in the trends in cancer mortality rates among males and females living in counties having initiated relative mortality rates from cancer, including cancer of the bones and joints, were similar after 20-35 years of fluoridation as they were in the years preceding fluoridation. In addition, there was no relationship between the introduction and duration of fluoridation and the patterns of cancer incidence rates, including those of the bone and joint, and the subset of osteosarcomas (Appendix E). For example, there were 91 observed cases of osteosarcoma in the fluoridated areas, when 93 cases were expected based on rates in non-fluoridated areas.

A 2011 study came to the same conclusion. There isn’t an increased risk of bone fracture, either.

This is great news! At the rate we in the United States are ingesting fluoride, we should be physically fine. But what about mentally? There was a much publicized study in 2012 that news outlets claimed proved that fluoridated drinking water decreased our IQ. There are a couple of things wrong with this.

First is that this is a meta-analysis, so the researchers looked at other studies that have already been done. The studies they looked at came from China, Mongolia and Iran. This may seem trivial at first. After all, people are people, and a physiological effect should be expected whether a person is of Asian, Middle Eastern, Western European, or whatever descent. However, this difference is actually pretty important. The fluoride levels in these areas were as high as 11.5 mg/L. That is 10 times higher than the optimal level used in the United States and more than twice as high as the EPA has deemed safe. So while we’re still dealing with fluoride, it’s really comparing apples and oranges.

Second, we’re actually getting smarter. Since 1900 (which includes the 1940s and 1950s, when fluoridation really started to pick up) Americans have been gaining on average 3 IQ points per decade. It may feel like we’re getting more stupid by the day, but that is in fact not the case. Fluoride and all.

So fluoride, in the quantities we’re using it, is basically harmless. But does it do any good? Yes! It does! The CDC named it one of the 10 greatest public health achievements, along with vaccines, family planning and the recognition of tobacco as a health hazard. Fluoridation is amazing for your oral health. It causes people to have fewer and less severe cavities and suffer less pain associated with tooth decay. It’s cost effective, too. For every dollar invested in fluoridation, it saves $38 in dental costs. So, if you love your teeth, you should love fluoride.

Fluoride is your friend, but it seems that there are a lot of people who don’t want you to realize it. Just last year Portland, Ore., voted to refuse water fluoridation, despite all the evidence that says it’s a safe and effective way to keep your mouth healthy. Kansas recently killed an anti-fluoride bill, but the fact that it came up is disturbing.

Food and drink is a touchy subject. It’s a deeply personal choice to decide what you decide to put in your body. But fluoride is safe and has done a lot throughout the decades to benefit our oral health. It’s time to drop the opposition and make your mouth happy.

Photo Credit: Andy Li via Flickr


Mark Lindsey
Mark Lindseyabout a year ago

Stephen, No, I don't automatically assume someone is a corporate/industry shill, but come on, read your posts again. It's quite obvious, and you were speaking from some sort of authority to validate the article, which means you've already done some research... but you got it all wrong and are totally ignorant on the subject. Your post read like an ADA fluoride promotion. Nice try.

Stephen Waite
Stephen Waiteabout a year ago

-way, for our health?

Do you automatically assume that everyone knows, including myself, of the manufacturing chemical processes that go into fluoride production deemed good for health?

It may have been better to have informed us of these things here, on Care2, in the first place, in a positive manner.


Stephen Waite
Stephen Waiteabout a year ago


Thank you for your thoughts and the sharing of your views.

I do not claim to know the manufacturing processes that go into the making of fluoride production for such 'health provisions' as mentioned and accordingly, I have no argument with you to the origins of manufactured fluoride based products as deemed 'good' for health provision.

If what you say is true, then we may well have a concern here to that of the pure fluoride element being contaminated by industry based toxic chemicals and components and therefore, nullifying it as a potential health benefit (as pure fluoride ions in bonded form) at very low concentrations, or at worst, to affect our health in a negative manner.

I do try to look at the overall picture of things and not just 'jump' to conclusions based on the general opinion of others; I like to take into account both that of reliable and dependable research, as well as the views of a broad range of experts in different fields of knowledge and understandings.

I do think it was unnecessary and rather a little unkind for you to suggest that I may have a financial benefit along the line somewhere, in endeavouring to make a contribution of some value to this important topic; perhaps being that it may have a positive slant, and to which may have contradicted your views.

Was it really necessary to try to make me feel bad about making some views that are open to the possibility that fluoridation of water may actually be of benefit, in some

Mark Lindsey
Mark Lindseyabout a year ago

Meant Stephen W. below...

Mark Lindsey
Mark Lindseyabout a year ago

Stephen K., Your argument might have some weight if we were actually talking about elemental fluoride. But we're not, we're talking about the industrial toxic waste product hydrofluorosilicic acid (or a variant) that has NOT been studied and shown to be safe for human consumption (or our pets, for that matter). Quite the contrary, it's a toxic substance laden with contaminants, some of which are known as being carcinogenic. Do you really feel good about this going into our water? Were you paid to make your post?

Stephen Waite
Stephen Waiteabout a year ago

It is actually reassuring to find an article that takes a view that floridation of drinking water is deemed not only to be very safe at very low parts per million as statistics seem to evident but actually to be an element that is to benefit our bone/ teeth health at levels recommended.

Elemental fluoride gas, of course, is highly unstable and reactive but combined with another element renders this gas element safe. It is the same with chlorine which is toxic on its own but when combined with sodium, becomes a salt which our body needs (in low quantities).

I think it is important to gain a proper balanced perspective of things here as there does seem to be a lot of fear surrounding that of water floridation. I very much believe that fear and corrasponding thoughts in themselves, can create much harm in ways we may not yet be fully aware of.

I trust that this seemingly well researched artical offsets some fears, if not all, as generated by confusions and uncertainties about very low level floridation of our water supplies.

Stephen Waite
Stephen Waiteabout a year ago

It is actually reassuring to find an article that takes a view that floridation of drinking water is deemed not only to be very safe at very low parts per million as statistics seem to evident but actually to be an element that is to benefit our bone/ teeth health at levels recommended.

Elemental fluoride gas, of course, is highly unstable and reactive but combined with another element renders this gas element safe. It is the same with chlorine

Erin S.
Erin S.1 years ago

The fact that the water is added to municipal water supplies in areas where there is no alternative method of obtaining clean water is WRONG.

“I am quite convinced that water fluoridation, in a not-too-distant future, will be consigned to medical history…Water fluoridation goes against leading principles of pharmacotherapy, which is progressing from a stereotyped medication – of the type 1 tablet 3 times a day – to a much more individualized therapy as regards both dosage and selection of drugs. The addition of drugs to the drinking water means exactly the opposite of an individualized therapy.” Dr. Arvid Carlsson, Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000. The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation

Fluoride is a multi-system poison. The Natural Solutions Foundation strongly opposes compulsory drugging through its addtion to the water systems of communities. We believe that this is both medically reckless and unconstitutional.
Fluoride Facts and Myths

You are clearly an idiot - you may have been over-fluoridated as a child.
Fluoride & IQ: The 43 Studies

Sheila Swan L.
Sheila Swan L2 years ago

Organizations and individuals who are credible all say watch out for fluoride. I pay attention to THEM!

Madeline L.
Madeline L2 years ago

You've got to be kidding! Fluoride is plain and simple, a poison.