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Fluoride has long been heralded as the hero of fighting tooth decay, providing preventative health measures to monitoring community-wide problems and concerns. Some 80-odd years since its first introduction into our water supplies, fluoride has made both protesters and supporters vocal. Some believe the controversial application of fluoride into our water supplies goes against public knowledge and human rights, and others support fluoride’s reputation for its proven health benefits around the world.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a compound that reacts with an element called fluorine, naturally occurring in many rocks. When fluoride is added to our water stream, it gets absorbed into the enamel of our teeth, resisting and preventing the effects of acid from bacteria attacking our teeth’s health and performance.

Tooth decay can cause serious health problems, such as infections in the mouth, jaw, and more. When present at optimal levels, fluoride is an important mineral that prevents these implications, strengthening our teeth and bones. In fact, in some case studies throughout parts of Australia where fluoride is present in our public water supplies, fluoride has proven to reduce cavities and decrease decay by 45%.

How is it added to water?

Fluoride compounds are added to the source of our water supplies, taking into consideration the design, procurement and installation of fluoridation plants. These plants are tested on a daily basis, and the addition of fluoride does not affect the appearance, taste or smell of our essential drinking water.

Fluoride is added to the water supply at one part per million, or one milligram per litre. Since 2007, the National Health and Medical Council have recommended a fluoridation range of 0.6-1.1mg/L, as outlined in their Public Statement on the efficacy and safety of fluoridation.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, published in 2011, is updated every year and currently allows up to 1.5 parts per million, which is on par with overseas recommendations, but also takes into account warmer Australian climates where communities are expected to drink more water than others.

However, regulatory bodies have ruled that the safe dosage can be amended to take into consideration the more prevalent sources of fluoride commercially, such as various mouth washes and toothpastes.

Is fluoride safe?

The fact of the matter is that fluoride is a poison, and high consumptions of water that contain the compound would make the dosage unsafe. However, it is extremely unlikely that a community would be exposed to such a risk at everyday absorption levels.

Protesters argue that it is unethical to add fluoride into our water supplies without individuals having prior knowledge or consent over the matter, arguing that freedom of choice has been violated. Excessive fluoride absorption can lead to dental fluorosis, where white streaks or more severe, brown stains, pits or broken enamel. Others against fluoridating our water believe that it is a costly process taken out of taxpayer’s money.

There is an overall support for fluoridating our water – not just by dentists and health professionals – as communities are embracing the preventative health measures when fluoride is consumed at safe concentrations. At 1ppm, our drinking water is safe, effective at preventing disease and decay. And, the cost on communities to treat preventable dental problems later in life far outweighs the benefits of introducing fluoride into our water supplies.

For more information on fluoride, teeth decay and cavities, speak to the dentistry professionals at Wisdom Dental Emergency!

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