What’s In Your Water? Fluoride, Hopefully!

Rather than, "What's in your wallet?", the better question may be, "What's in your water?" The amount of fluoride in your drinking water has everything to do with your oral health. Too little fluoride can lead to tooth decay, and tooth decay necessitates dental restorations such as fillings, crowns, root canals, and even dental implants. Many people seek cosmetic dentistry procedures to correct the damage done by tooth decay. You may not be aware that fluoridation standards differ from state to state -- even from city to city. Therefore, it's up to you to find out how much is in your drinking water. You may need to compensate for an insufficient supply of fluoride by using other methods to protect your teeth from decay.

Fluoride's history

Back in the mid-1940s, health officials began to consider fluoridating water supplies to prevent tooth decay in children. Grand Rapids, Michigan led the way, with the state of Wisconsin fast on its heels. In 1951 community fluoridation became official United States public health policy, and fluoride reached 50 million people through drinking water within a decade. As of 2010, 73.9% of Americans have a fluoridated water supply, although this varies greatly from state to state. For instance, 99.9% of Kentucky's drinking water is fluoridated while in contrast only 10% of Hawaii's contains this ingredient. Those who are not on community water supplies (CWS), relying instead on well water, do not receive any fluoride in their water.

Fluoride's effectiveness

Is fluoride effective at preventing tooth decay and the need for cosmetic dentistry procedures such as inlays, outlays, and dental implants? Yes. Studies show with the proper amount of fluoride in the water (current regulations are for 0.7 milligrams per liter), dental caries are reduced by anywhere from 20-35% in children aged 8-17. Fluoride's action is to reduce the activity of bacteria in the mouth that cause the breakdown of tooth enamel. Even when plaque exists on your teeth, fluoride is present within the plaque and reduces its destructive action. The implementation of community programs delivering fluoride to tap water is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

Fluoride's controversy

You have probably heard there is some controversy about fluoride being added to your tap water. In fact, the reason for the current regulations is too much fluoride can produce a condition called fluorosis, which is a discoloration of the teeth. Because there are other ways for you to get the recommended 10 mg/day of fluoride (such as toothpaste and mouthwash), it is indeed possible to ingest too much fluoride. However, with the guideline implemented in 2010 of 0.7 mg/liter, fluorosis should not be a problem.


If you drink bottled water instead of tap water because it tastes better, you won't get enough fluoride to make a difference in your dental health. Make a conscious effort to use tap water for cooking and for making coffee/tea. To find out how your state fares in the delivery of fluoridated water, check the Center for Disease Control's website. If your state is poorly served, or you are on well water, consider increasing your fluoride intake in the following ways:

  • use fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash

  • drink black tea, which has the largest nutritional amount of fluoride of any food

  • eat such foods as baked potatoes and raisins

If your state already has an adequate fluoride delivery system, drinking tap water every day should be sufficient for you to reduce the likelihood of tooth decay.

Fluoride in drinking water is an effective way to reduce tooth decay. Get informed about how much is delivered to your area so you can supplement as needed to achieve optimal dental health. Continue here to learn more.