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When you add an electron to the element fluorine, it becomes fluoride, which scientists discovered in the 1940's as a way to reduce cavities. They noticed that people who drank from natural water sources that had one part per million (ppm) of fluoride had fewer cavities, and so various municipalities started adding it to drinking water. But this decision wasn't met without its fair share of opposition: Seventy years later, the debate about the efficacy and potential damage of fluoridated water continues.
How exactly does fluoride help your teeth? When it's added to water in the right proportion (0.8-1.2 ppm), fluoride helps teeth in two ways: it strengthens developing teeth, making them more resistant to bacterial attack, and prevents bacteria from producing the acids that causes tooth decay. The problem is that if you increase the amount of fluoride to 1.5 ppm, it can actually cause tooth decay.
Currently fluoride is added to about 2/3 of American public drinking water. The World Health Organization recommends community water fluoridation as the "most effective public health measure" to prevent cavities. So what's the problem? Some studies suggest topical application of fluoride (like in toothpaste) is more effective than waterborne fluoride. A CDC study comparing cavity rates of children from the 1960's to the 1990's found a 68% drop in cavities. This might sound like fluoridated water is an unmitigated success, but it's impossible to determine if the drop was from floride in water or the increased use of fluoride toothpaste.
Do you know if your water is fluoridated or not? Do you care? Do you think the government is using it to control the population? Let us know in the comments section down below.
What wears down tooth enamel, and how can you prevent it? (via How Stuff Works)
"According to the American Dental Association (ADA), bacteria start attacking teeth within 20 minutes of eating or drinking, and the assault begins with the tooth enamel. Bacteria form as food is broken down, and foods with sugar and starch are especially efficient at forming strong and stubborn corrosives."
10 Fluoride Facts You Should Know (via How Stuff Works)
"Four out of five dentists might recommend sugarless gum, but virtually every dental and medical association recommends fluoride."
A Natural History of Fluoride (via Wired.com)
"This week the city of Portland rejected a measure that would have introduced fluoridated drinking water there, a process already available in many other cities as a means of protecting dental health."