Is Fluoride Bad For You?

Fluoride is arguably the most controversial additive in the public water supply.  It is added for the purpose of “dental health” for several generations.  But does fluoridated water actually make your teeth stronger or does it bring more harm than good?  With over 50 years of data to look at, we now have a better understanding of fluoride now than ever.

History of Water Fluoridation

Is Fluoride Bad For You?The concept of water fluoridation became widespread in the early 1950’s.  In the United States, it was backed by research from the 1930’s that showed fluoride can prevent tooth decay & cavities in small quantities.  Too much fluoride (fluorosis) can cause cracked and brown-stained teeth, hence the name “Colorado Brown Stain” due to high concentrations of naturally occurring fluoride in certain Colorado communities where citizens experienced health effects.

In 1960, approximately 28% of the American population was drinking fluoridated water.  Fast forward to 2016 and approximately 75% of the United States is drinking fluoridated water.  Add into the equation that fluoride is added to toothpastes and dentists offer topical fluoride treatments, the presence of fluoride is many daily oral applications.

What Type Of Fluoride Is Added To The Water?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element in nature.  Remembering back to your high school science class, it’s periodic symbol is “F” and it easily bonds with other elements.  In groundwater, it is most prevalent in hard water and will show up as Calcium Fluoride.

American fluoridation initially began with adding sodium fluoride.  This is a more pure version of fluorosilicic acid (the most common additive today), but it is more expensive to produce and only used a smaller utilities because it is easier, safer to handle.  Sodium Fluoride is also used as a tracer for medical imaging and various cleaning applications.

The most common compound of fluoride added to drinking water is an industrial by-product from the aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industries.  It is called fluorosilicic acid in its liquid form and sodium fluorosilicate is the cheaper, powdered form.  There is an inadequate American supply of these by-products, so additional fluorosilicic acid is imported from China to meet demand!  So I ask the question, what other “by-products” tag along with this type of fluoride?

The naturally occuring fluoride compound, Calcium Fluoride, is completely different than fluorosilicic acid that is added to most water supplies.

Other Applications of Fluoride

To better understand the potential health effects of fluoride, I also think it’s important to know some of the other uses of fluoride.

Fluoride is used in pesticides and rat poison because of it’s acute (short-term) toxicity properties.  It’s short-term Is Fluoride Bad For You?effects are just as deadly as lead and arsenic in large concentrations.  As a pesticide, it is sprayed on products such as grapes, cocoa powder, dried fruits and beans, and walnuts because it essentially dries the bugs from the inside out.

Medicinally fluoride is used for dental treatments, toothpaste & mouthwash, medical imaging tracing, and has been used to fight against post-menopausal osteoporosis.

If you look at the warning label on a tube of toothpaste, it is recommended that you call Poison Control if a child ingests more than a pea-sized amount due to the concentration of fluoride.  If ingested, the body’s natural reaction is to try and vomit the fluoridated toothpaste back out.  Bugs don’t stand a chance when they ingest fluoride because pesticides are designed with an ideal concentration so they die on impact.

So you might be consuming fluoride by consuming conventional food and beverages because the producers used fluoridated products or water.

Depending on the use, these are all different varients of fluoride.  You also won’t be using medicinal grade fluoride for creating pesticides or for industrial cleaning agents.

Health Effects of Fluoride

In this section we look at the cumulative, long-term potential health effects of fluoride.

Too much fluoride in any variety can cause dental and/or skeletal fluorosis.  This is when the teeth or bones become hard & brittle and break because the fluoride attaches itself to the bones.  Fluorosis is a long and gradual process so it can occur after several years or decades of consuming higher concentrations of fluoride.  Because fluoride can also thicken the bones, it can reduce flexibility like osteoarthritis.

As mentioned earlier in this article, excess fluoride can cause pitted and stained teeth.  Scientists realized the “Colorado Brown Stain” was the result of too much natural fluoride in the water at the beginning of the 20th century.  Children and adults can still experience these symptoms today.

Fluoride can also be an endocrine disruptor that can negatively impact various body parts like the thyroid, kidneys, and the gastrointestinal tract.  As will be discussed later, fluoride can also impact infant brain development.  The human body tries to excrete excess fluoride via the waste process, but fluoride is still absorbed into the body whenever it comes into contact with fluoride.

Is Fluoride Bad For You?

Mild Dental Fluorosis

The EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) maximum allowable level of Fluoride in public water supplies is 2 parts per million (ppm).  Most water utilities strive to keep the fluoride concentration below 1 ppm with a federal recommendation of 0.7 ppm.  Fluoride concentrations higher than these levels

 Does Fluoride Do What It Is Supposed To?

So fluoride is added to the water supply to prevent cavities and tooth decay.  Does fluoride do what it’s claimed purpose is?

A study conducted by the World Health Organization has shown that countries with fluoridated water do not have a significantly less rate of tooth decay than non-fluoridated countries.

Is Fluoride Bad For You?

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The reason is because fluoride is only effective on teeth when topically applied.  It is ineffective when ingested by the body (i.e. drinking a glass of water).

I also think it is important to take into consideration the consumption of sugar through candy, soft drinks, and processed food that also promotes tooth decay & other health-related issues.  I realize there are two sides to this coin, resulting in differing viewpoints.  The increased presence of sugar counteracts the positive effects of fluoride or sugar is has increased the rate of tooth decay & other medical issues regardless of consuming fluoridated water.

Health Effects Of Fluoride On Infants and Little Children

Fluoride has the most acute health effects on infants and small children.  For example, a toddler and an adult drink 8 oz. of water with a 1 ppm concentration of water.  But because the toddler is much smaller, the fluoride has a more present concentration in their bodies.  Remember the bug that ingested the pesticide sprayed grapes?

Is Fluoride Bad For You?Because of the acute effects of fluoride (excess intake can cause dental fluorosis or it can be an endocrine disruptor) and that small children’s bodies are rapidly developing, higher levels of fluoride can greatly impair their temporary and long-term development.

Multiple studies, including some from Ivy League universities, have shown that moderately high levels of fluoride can cause neurological impairment by reducing IQ and brain development.

Also babies that drink formula made with fluoridated water, have higher levels of dental fluorosis.  So there are visible signs that fluoride consumption has health effects on the human body.

How To Remove Fluoride In Drinking Water

Fluoride is a rather difficult contaminant to remove from tap water.  There are four ways to effectively reduce the amount of fluoride in drinking water.

Here is a brief list of the 4 possible methods:

  1. Reverse Osmosis (Arguably the most effective at removing fluoride)
  2. Activated Alumina (Used by water utilities to reduce fluoride concentration and used by some household point-of-use water filters)
  3. Bone Char (From medicinal grade cows, the fluoride attaches itself to the bone char like it would human body)
  4. Distillation (Some people say this method can remove up to 100% fluoride, but it is also the most time-intensive and nutrient need to be added back into the water for long-term consumption.)

One filtered countertop pitcher, produced by Clearly Filtered, is also certified to remove up to 90% of fluoride.

Certain carbon/KDF whole house filtration systems will not certify to remove fluoride to disclosed percentages but they will make claims to noticeably reduce the amount of fluoride in the filtered water.

Because fluoride needs to remain in contact a “long time” with the filtration media to be removed from water, it is near impossible to remove it with filtered shower heads & bath tub faucet filters.


I hope this article has provided more information on fluoride.  When I first began looking into the history of water fluoridation several years ago, I didn’t realize all the many different uses of fluoride and how the type of fluoride added to drinking water is not the same type that might be naturally present in well water.

The natural variety, Calcium Fluoride, is a lot safer and significantly less harmful than the fluorosilicic acid added to public water.

My family personally tries to do everything we can to avoid fluoride.  The fact about fluoride that made me most uncomfortable with consuming it, is that the compound added into public water is an industrial by-product. 🙁  We want to drink the purest water available and this is one additive that is on our list to avoid.

It might be marginally beneficial when the dentist applies it directly to the teeth and gums, but only opens up the door to cumulative health issues with long-term consumption.

Thanks for reading this article and I hope it has been helpful.  If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them.

Do you think fluoride is bad?  Do you take any measures to not drink fluoridated water?



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