What is Fluoride Doing in Your Drinking Water and Is It Safe?

February 28, 2022

What is Fluoride and How Does it Work?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in bones and teeth. It can also be found in water, soil, rocks, plants, and air. So what does fluoride do exactly? Fluoride is commonly used to improve dental health where it works to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities and can be found in dental hygiene products like toothpaste, mouth rinse, and supplements. Another common use for fluoride is as an additive in drinking water. The CDC touts the fluoridation, or addition of fluoride to drinking water, as a cost-effective solution that saves communities money on costly dental care. 

Scientific studies performed in the early 20th century concluded that communities with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water had lower levels of tooth decay. With these studies in mind, there was a push to add additional fluoride to public water supplies. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first community in the U.S. and the world to include fluoride in its drinking water. Since then many cities have added fluoride to drinking water. In fact, about 73% of the U.S. that has access to public drinking water are drinking water with fluoride in it. 

In more recent years, fluoride has been considered a controversial addition to water, and the debate about fluoride continues to rage on. Though misconceptions continue to circulate, it should be known that fluoride is safe for consumption in small doses. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the limit for fluoride at 4.0 milligrams per liter, to protect against risks from exposure to too much fluoride. 

How Does Fluoride Help Your Body?

Fluoride is beneficial to your dental health by helping:  

  • rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel
  • slow down the loss of minerals from tooth enamel
  • reverse early signs of tooth decay
  • prevent the growth of harmful oral bacteria

When your teeth break down carbohydrates and sugar, they produce acids that eat away vital minerals in tooth enamel resulting in weaker tooth enamel. This makes your teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria. Fluoride helps to remineralize enamel surfaces and slow down tooth decay.

Is Fluoride Bad For You?

As the saying goes, “everything in moderation.” Excessive amounts of fluoride can cause a condition called dental fluorosis, which occurs if you consume too much fluoride while your teeth are still developing under your gums. Dental fluorosis can cause changes in the tooth enamel that range from barely noticeable white spots to staining and pitting. It tends to affect children under the age of 8 who are still waiting for their permanent teeth to grow in. Dental fluorosis does not pose any medical risks.  

A buildup of fluoride concentrations in the bones can stimulate bone cell growth and cause joint pain or bone fractures. This condition is called skeletal fluorosis. It tends to result from long-term overconsumption of fluoride in contaminated drinking water. Common causes of contamination include fires or explosions or large geologic deposits of drinking water. In the U.S., cases of skeletal fluorosis are very rare. Experts concluded that one reported case of skeletal fluorosis in a 52-year old American man was likely a result of swallowing toothpaste. 

Lab research conducted on animals also showed a potential tie between high levels of fluoride and brain and nerve damage. Though, a systematic review of various studies found that consuming low levels of fluoride in water is not associated with neurological damage. High levels of fluoride may pose some risk, though the amount of evidence for this is low. 

Some have also suggested that fluoride in drinking water can decrease children’s IQ, however, the studies used to demonstrate this has been found to be flawed. The studies are unreliable due to problems with the quality of the sample, measurements, and outcomes. Therefore, the link between fluoride consumption and IQ is unsubstantiated

Another common misconception is that fluoride in water can cause cancer. The controversy stems from a study of lab animals reported by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) in 1990 where researchers found uncertain evidence of a potential link between drinking fluoridated water. The study found a correlation to an increase in the number of osteosarcomas, bone tumors, in male rats given water high in fluoride for 2 years. However, more recent studies using humans or other animals have not found a link between fluoridated water and cancer. A 2006 study identified that childhood exposure to fluoridated water was linked to higher rates of bone cancer in males. However, a 2011 review of that study and a 2016 study didn’t find a connection between the two. Additionally, more recent population-based studies using cancer registry data found no evidence of an association between fluoride in drinking water and the risk of osteosarcoma. 

There is no debate, however, that high levels of fluoride can be dangerous and, though rare, can cause fluoride poisoning when consumed in excessively large doses. Fluoride is safe when consumed in small doses. Studies conducted on the benefits of fluoride in drinking water have demonstrated that fluoride does have a positive effect on preventing cavities in children and teens. 

How ZeroWater Can Help Keep Fluoride Levels Safe

Naturally-occurring fluoride can be higher in some regions of the U.S., in areas where fluoride levels are above the recommended levels for drinking ZeroWater can help you and your family hydrated and safe. The ZeroWater 5-stage filter can lower fluoride levels in drinking water, so you and your family can reduce the risk of over-exposure to fluoride. ZeroWater’s 5-stage filters have been independently tested by an EPA-certified lab for the reduction of fluoride with an overall reduction percentage of 99%.

Low levels of fluoride in drinking water offer great health benefits in helping people keep their teeth strong and free from cavities, but high amounts can pose a risk. With ZeroWater, you can feel confident that you and your family are not only drinking pure-tasting water but also water with safe levels of fluoride.