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Is Water Fluoridation Really Beneficial?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 14 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Water Fluoridation Benefits Teeth

Water fluoridation is a controversial topic around the world but more recently so in the UK, where calls have been made to add fluoride to the water supplies with the aim of addressing tooth decay.

But on the other hand, those who oppose the idea cite that we still don't know the long-term effects of water fluoridation. For this reason, we shouldn't add fluoride to the water supplies – at least not until we know more about any risks or long-term health problems related to its use in drinking water.

Benefits of Water Fluoridation

Those who support water fluoridation include a number of people from the medical field, particularly dentists. They believe water fluoridation is an effective way of enhancing public dental health.

In England, water is already fluoridated to some extent. Roughly around ten percent is fluoridated and the aim is to prevent the occurrence of tooth decay. In fact, even the aim is specific in that it's geared at children and those who don't brush their teeth on a regular basis.

In places such as the United States, most water is fluoridated and has been for decades. No health problems have been substantiated from the water fluoridation there yet either. In fact, there have been many benefits reported in terms of improved dental health and a reduction in dental caries – also known as dental cavities.

Those who support water fluoridation believe we owe it to children and those in deprived areas who don't brush their teeth regularly to intervene in ways that improve dental health. However, critics see this as an intervention that benefits a minority but causes the majority to be subject to the effects too, which is considered unfair and unhealthy.

Concerns About Water Fluoridation

Those who are against water fluoridation argue that we need to conduct a great deal more research into the effects of water fluoridation, particularly the long-term ones. Some believe that water fluoridation can increase risks of diseases such as cancer as well as contributing to infertility and thinning bones. However, there is no evidence to confirm these findings as of yet.

There is one claim against water fluoridation that does have some validity though. Excessive exposure of teeth to fluoride has been linked to a condition whereby teeth become discoloured. This is known as fluorosis but it's thought that water fluoridation would generally not cause fluorosis in most of the general public.

Some organisations also argue that water fluoridation goes against human rights to refuse medical treatment. They see water fluoridation as a medical intervention that is being forced on people.

Weighing the Facts

For now, it seems that there should at least be a public debate before any key measures are implemented in terms of water fluoridation. We all have a right to offer input and public safety must be safeguarded. Still, dental decay is a huge problem in Britain and if water fluoridation does have the potential to help in this area, it would be unwise not to consider its use.

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