Can we have a debate about flouride?

I always try to see both sides of an issue and understand where folks are coming from, but I am struggling on fluoride and I think some people here might help, especially since fluoridated water is not commonplace in other parts of the world

For those that don’t know, in the US we do not usually fluoridate our salt, but instead, fluoridate our municipal water supplies and sometimes fluoride treatments for kids in school or dental settings.

I live in a state that is 80% un-fluoridated in its water supply, and incidentally, and we have a huge issue with dental disease. Over half of Oregon children have already had cavities by the age of 8, and emergency dental care outstrips all other diseases as a cause of youth ER hospitalization on our state low-income health plan. We were supposed to get fluoride in our water supply in 2014, but the vote to do it tore apart our city and ended friendships. Fluoride lost.

Reasons I see against fluoridated water supply:

  • places undue burden on folks who cannot consume fluoride internally due to medical issues to filter their tap water
  • requires municipal water supplies to regulate fluoridation to make sure it does not exceed healthy levels
  • increases the urban/rural health divide for those that use wells and other non-municipal water systems as they still won’t be receiving fluoride

Reasons I see for it:

  • exposure to fluoride has demonstrably better outcomes for oral health, which has an impact on every other body system
  • fluoridated water is “easy” - water is generally good for you, salt can be a problem at high levels (fluoridated salt is normal in much of the world)
  • does not put as much emphasis on fluoride-in-schools, which adds yet more work to teachers’ plates, and is more likely to not get done in low-income schools (and thus increasing systemic class and race differences in access to oral health care)
  • umm…improve oral health care metrics? like, a lot?

I’m gonna be mean and batsignal @rural for the rural perspective and @katscratch and @Bracken_Joy for medical perspective.


Well, we had municipal water when I was an infant/tiny child and we were on a well by the time my younger brother came along. I have solid teeth that handle benign neglect without complaint, and he is meticulous in his routine, in using a flouride rinse and going to the dentist and etc, and he has virtually no natural teeth left.

Some of this is genetic - he gets a lot more from our mother, who has more trouble, and I get almost everything from our dad’s side. But his teeth are even worse than hers, and so I lean toward the importance of flouride during the time the teeth are forming.

I actually don’t think I know if the local water where I live now is flouridated - probably? It’s a small rural county, but it’s a municipal system, and I thought they were all required to be.

Edit: looked it up on the CDC’s fluoridation website, and the local water is fluoridated. I knew some of the old folks in the 1960s were nervous about a change to fluoridation back then, but I don’t know that it’s really an issue for debate now - maybe some of the flat earth types, but no one with any real scientific or public health background.


In my workplace we see a significant difference in dental health of kids who have access to fluoridated water and kids who don’t. A majority of our surgical dental patients are kids/young adults who are not able to have food/drink by mouth and are not tolerant of toothpaste.

The reasons against that you listed don’t seem super robust to me. Fluoride is one of the easier and cheaper things to filter out of water for those that need to avoid ingesting it. Municipal water supplies have to regulate a lot of metrics already and fluoride monitoring is well established so I don’t understand how that would be a huge burden to add. People living in rural areas that have wells mostly are already aware they don’t have fluoride in their water and dentists/pediatricians in those areas are definitely aware. Adding water to city supplies isn’t going to change that.

I personally use prescription fluoride toothpaste and I’d rather spit it out (the percentage is higher than recommended safe ingestion amount and my city uses chloramines instead of free chlorine which I also prefer not to ingest even though it’s all at known safe levels), but I do think from a human health perspective fluoride is important.


…I thought this was going in a very different direction, but glad it’s not. ahem

How common is it for people to be intolerant of fluoride in their water, but ok with everything else involved in water treatment?


The anti-science crowd can have all the burden of filtering the water. They’re already putting beneficial spin on the molecules or whatever the cutting edge pseudoscience is.


This is my opinion too. I’m allergic to chlorine and notice symptoms with chloramines as well so I try to minimize my exposure. I certainly would not want the city to stop treating my water!


I suspect the chloramines are a lot less negotiable! Which is also kind of my point, if someone has a reaction to the minute amounts of fluoride in municipal water, would they not likely be sensitive to other chemicals required for water safety?


That’s what I’m thinking too.

I don’t know a whole lot about chemical sensitivities, just what I’ve been exposed to in my own health stuff, but I think it’s most common to have generalized chemical sensitivities or one specific allergy. So I would think that someone that would be trying to avoid fluoride due to their risk perception would also then want to avoid or aggressively filter city water entirely.

Adding fluoride to the system, then, makes no difference.


I’ve never really been clear on why the idea of any amount of fluoride being poison is still so prevalent.

I actually get the fluoride paint on my teeth at dentist visits just like little kids, and for a long time my treat after dental appointments was to get a latte at Starbucks next door afterwards. One time I asked for paper straw and happened to mention I had fluoride on my teeth and needed to use a straw for an hour. The barista who looked younger than 25 totally went off about how fluoride is poison.

I let them rant for a few minutes and then very concisely pointed out that number one, shit customer service to berate someone for their personal choices after they have just given you a ridiculous amount of money for coffee and milk, and number two, I would be ingesting more fluoride from the damn drink they gave me than I would from the paint on my teeth that had lacquered just like it was supposed to and would only come off with brushing later.

I definitely had friends in kiddo’s play group when he was very little the thought consuming fluoride was not safe but they never had good data, just things they had read on Mom blogs or science papers that were not confirmed or relevant to the United States. They simply filtered their water and went about their days. I personally found it a little hilarious that some of them would go to Great lengths to avoid GMOs and particular chemicals that they had awareness of (which is really all it is–most people aren’t going to research, they just trust the sources they trust), but drank alcohol every time we got together.


I know I’m posting a million times in a row, but I should also say I was a total hippie type with kiddo. We didn’t eat processed food, he had no screen time, we had no plastic toys or dishes/food containers.

We bought non-fluoride toothpaste when he was little because he’d swallow most of it and that amount is higher than recommended consumption. We did let him drink city water.

…oh, maybe that’s where some of the misconception cones from - parents especially are told not to let littles eat toothpaste, maybe people extrapolate from there and the idea continues to circulate.


Just an anecdote, but I know when I was little and we lived in a place that didn’t have fluoride in the water we used to have to take tablets. My sibling managed to get into the bottle once somehow (because child safe means safe from everyone except children, I think) and I remember my parents on the phone with poison control…I think they were very glad when we moved to the next place and didn’t need to deal with it.


I was raised in a very anti-vax, anti-flouride, anti-western medicine household…my mom was anti-science before it was cool! Haha. Anyway, we always had natural toothpaste, skipped fluoride at the dentist, drank aggressively filtered water, etc. And I had SO many cavities in my teen/college years. My mom has bad teeth, and I think I’ve inherited some of that…but as an adult I have had to nip it in the bud fast…I had inflamed gums forever until I broke down and started using a regular fluoride toothpaste. I think I was 27 when I made the change. I felt SO guilty, like I was betraying my “health” or whatever my mom taught me as a kid. Well my teeth+gums are way healthier now, my gums aren’t inflamed and no new cavities. I use natural products as often as possible, but I decided my teeth were an area I couldn’t take the risk on anymore.


This is me too. Toothpaste is one of the few things I buy in plastic tubes but it’s made such a big difference to my dental health!


Today I’m learning about a whole level of pseudoscientific woo nonsense I could have lived my whole life without knowing about.


Bf just reminded me that fluoride is also mind control, so you know…theres that. :laughing::upside_down_face::grimacing:


And here I thought that was just that dihydrogen monoxide stuff. They really should take that out of the water supply.


Welcome! I can teach you all about healing strep throat with vitamin C and ear infections with garlic oil!


Hmm. Can actually see some mechanism for #2, maybe. Well, for pain, not infection.

I do some significant amount of herbal medicine for minor things, but in reasonable doses and I pull out the Western med when it gets bad or when those don’t work in the time expected. Actual ear infections are definitely past the time for home remedies. Strep throat, if not terrible, might be better left to see if the body will fight it off to avoid making more multidrug-resistant strains, but that shit needs monitored carefully, and the Vitamin C won’t do anything but hurt *(assuming you were gettting enough in diet to begin with).

*I mean hurt as in cause pain to inflammed tissues, not hurt as in increase viral load or etc.


I don’t know much about this, but this is a very interesting discussion!

I googled it, and Chicago started fluoridating its water in 1967. Anecdotally - my parents (who were born WAY before this) both have shit teeth. Born after 1967, I, uh, went many many MANY years without professional dental care and considering that, my teeth should be way worse off than they are. During my last exam the dentist was pretty surprised that the cavities that I couldn’t afford to fill when they were detected {mumble} years ago hadn’t really gotten any worse.


Yes, totally…I was mostly saying that in jest because those were the two “medicines” I was allowed as a kid. I still use garlic oil if my hear hurts a little…and mostly rely on natural supplements for things that aren’t serious. But man, I am still traumatized by living with strep throat for over 2 weeks with nothing but “natural remedies” to help. So painful! and so unnecessary. I once had bronchitis for 3.5 weeks before I was allowed to go to the doctor for an inhaler…Once I got that and a steroid shot I was better in 3 days! I’m all for the body fighting things off if it makes sense…but weeks of sickness for no reason is just. Silly.