The Great Debate: Fluoride in Water

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For more than 60 years, fluoride has been added to drinking water in Australia. Science has shown that fluoride builds stronger teeth and reduces tooth decay.

But is fluoridated water safe to drink? And why is the anti-fluoride brigade heating up now, after all these years.

The argument for fluoridated water

Water fluoridation involves adding fluoride to the natural water supply. The natural mineral has been proven that people who live in areas with higher levels of fluoridated water have fewer incidents of tooth decay.

These days, around 90 percent of Australia's natural drinking water supply has been fluoridated.

According to the Australian Dental Association, Fluoridated water means fewer fillings, fewer extractions, and fewer visits to the dentist - resulting in healthier teeth, better smiles, and less pain and suffering.

The association confirms that over 150 global health and science authorities have given fluoridated water two thumbs up. The case for fluoridation is so strong that even countries that can't effectively fluoridate their water will use alternatives such as fluoridated salt.

The Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recently reviewed the evidence for the safety and efficacy of fluoridated water. The final information paper will be released in mid 2016.

The argument against fluoridated water

On the flip side, some people are concerned about fluoride toxicity. This can occur when too much fluoride is mistakenly added to the water supply. They are concerned that excess fluoride can cause thyroid issues, behavior problems and more.

It happened in late 2013 to an Australian town, when an alleged electrical fault causes too much fluoride to seep into the local water supply. As a result, the levels rose to 2.8 milligrams per litre. This was much higher than the Australian Drinking Water Guideline of 1.5 milligrams per litres.

In April of this year, the United States Department of Health and Human Services revised its recommended fluoridated water level cutting it by almost half. It now proposes reducing the level from 1.2 milligrams per litre to 0.7 miligrams per litre.

Deputy surgeon general, Dr Boris Lushniak, backed up the recommendation by saying, The change is recommended because now Americans have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when fluoridation was first introduced in the United States.

He and others cite evidence that since so many Americans now have access to more fluoridated products, the cosmetic condition fluorosis is on the rise.

But that's the only proven side effect of fluoridated water cosmetic marks on the surface of the teeth. There is yet to be any evidence that health risks rise when drinking fluoridated water at the recommended levels.

If you're concerned, consult your dental health professional.

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