Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Double-Edged Sword?

By Yobel Petros ‘24

Photo Credit: capnet images

In public health and dental care, the addition of fluoride to drinking water is a significant controversy. Fluoride, a mineral known for its cavity-preventing properties, is widely respected in the dental world. However, its widespread use in public water supplies also raises questions about potential health risks and the balance of public health policy versus free will.

Fluoride’s Role in Dental Health

According to Medical News Today, fluoride in drinking water works by strengthening tooth enamel, making it more resistant to plaque. This significantly reduces the occurrence of cavities and tooth decay in individuals.

Over-Fluoridation Concerns: When Too Much is Harmful

Despite its benefits, the debate on water fluoridation intensifies when discussing the potential risks of over-fluoridation. According to NIDCR, excessive fluoride intake, especially in children, can lead to dental fluorosis, a condition that causes discoloration of teeth. In more severe cases, it can lead to skeletal fluorosis, which affects bone density and joint mobility.

Photo Credit: Verywell Health Images

Balancing Act: Public Health Policy vs. Individual Rights

Some argue that mandatory fluoridation infringes upon free will, especially for those who prefer to avoid fluoride for health reasons. Others argue that the broader public health benefits justify its inclusion in community water systems.

Navigating the Controversy: What’s the Verdict?

As the debate continues, it is important to weigh the proven dental benefits of fluoride against the concerns of overexposure to fluoride in society. The American Dental Association (ADA) continues to endorse the practice as safe and effective, while some communities have begun to reconsider fluoridation. Ultimately, the decision rests on the government’s thoughts on this ongoing issue.


Fluoride & dental health. (n.d.). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/fluoride#:~:text=In%20the%20dental%20office%2C%20a,and%20adults%20benefit%20from%20it

Bigley II, J. (2023, February 16). The hard facts about fluoride. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-fluoride-bad-for-you/ 

Brazier, Y. (2018, February 21). Why do we have fluoride in our water?https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154164

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