According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, water fluoridation is one of the “ten great public health achievements” of the 20th century. Fluoride reduces the rate of demineralisation caused by bacteria from sugar on the surface of the teeth. In order to be effective, fluoride needs to be in your saliva constantly, so putting it in people’s drinking water (when it does not occur naturally) doses our mouths with trace amounts of fluoride at regular intervals. Water fluoridation is estimated to reduce the occurrence of cavities by 18–40 percent in children and adults, regardless of other variables such as diet or getting fluoride from other sources.
Some people view fluoridation as unethical, seeing it as medical treatment given without consent. Others take objection further – a website on “The Fluoride Conspiracy” claims “the reason for the fluoridation of our water is to control our minds, keeping us docile,” to “snatch our souls”, “destroy our individuality and turn us into compliant sheep, obedient to the whims of a faceless, anonymous bureaucracy.” The site claims fluoride was used by Nazi soldiers in concentration camps to “put prisoners into a “mentally submissive state.” As though starvation, incarceration, forced labour, the threat of death, and emotional trauma had nothing to do with it.
Perhaps these conspiracy theorists take it as evidence when they see that the people who don’t believe them are still drinking tap water. If they weren’t so “mentally submissive” they would realise the water is controlling their minds.
Over-exposure to fluoride can cause dental fluorosis: the staining and pitting of children’s teeth. Adults who ingest excessive amounts of fluoride over their lifetime may develop a high risk of bone fractures. Remember, though, that everything is toxic in a high enough dose. Pure water itself can be toxic to humans if we drink enough of it. Most cases of fluoride poisoning are from water supplies with natural fluoride levels well above recommended levels.
Medical professionals adhere to the Hippocratic oath, meaning they must aim preserve and improve the health of their patients. The New Zealand Dental Association supports fluoridation in water, even though fewer cavities in the New Zealander’s teeth means less work for dentists. The home page on their website has links to studies supporting fluoridation, and the statement “Community Water Fluoridation is an effective, safe and affordable way to prevent and reduce tooth decay for everyone.”