What is fluoride?
Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds that are composed of fluorine and one other elements. Fluorides are present naturally in water and soil at different levels.
In the 1940s, scientists became aware that people living near drinking water supplies had naturally occurring fluoride levels of approximately 1 part fluoride per million parts water or greater had fewer dental cavities. Many studies over the past 70 years have supported this finding (1).
It was later found that fluoride can prevent and even reverse tooth decay by hindering bacteria that produce acid in the mouth. It also boost remineralization, the process through which tooth enamel is “rebuilt” after it begins to decay (1, 2).
In addition to building up in teeth, ingested fluoride accumulates in bones. Moderate amounts prevent dental caries (cavities), but long-term ingestion of large amounts can lead to potentially severe skeletal problems. The control of drinking-water quality is therefore critical in preventing fluorosis and only providing help for dental cavities.
What is water fluoridation?
Water fluoridation is the process of adding fluoride to the water supply so the level reaches approximately 0.7 ppm, or 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water; this is the optimal level for preventing tooth decay (1).