An introduction to fluoride in water

Start here if you are:

  • New to the issue of fluoride in water
  • Looking for an overview or brief summary to bring you up to speed

The links on this page will mainly be to other parts of the BFS website, where you can find more detail. Please use the search facility on the website to seek out specifics.

Putting fluoride in water (water fluoridation) is the process of adjusting the amount of fluoride in drinking water to a level recommended for preventing tooth decay (all tap water contains some fluoride).

The USA Centre for Communicable Disease Control names water fluoridation in its top ten of public health achievements of the 20th century.

Community water fluoridation (CWF) is one of the few tools that reduces both overall disease levels and inequalities. Just about every bit of decay in a permanent tooth will end up needing treatment, and every restorative treatment will be redone a several times in that person’s life, with that treatment increasing in complexity and expense every time.  Most dental treatments (root canal therapies, crowns, implants, dentures and so on) start with decay.  If we prevent even one carious lesion, we can prevent a whole lifetime of complex dentistry, saving a fortune,  not to mention reducing pain, discomfort and distress.  And the measured reductions in decay occur over only a few years.  CWF reduces caries over a lifetime, as well as the repeated treatment consequences of each attack of decay.

This power of CWF to reduce dental decay is reflected in the personal experiences of dentists practicing today. One dentist from North East England works in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. He comments “In deprived communities it has a dramatically greater effect”.   Water fluoridation is the most effective way to contribute to reducing oral health inequalities

Some people think that dental decay is no longer a public health issue; while for others it is a blight on their future. Unlike years ago, high rates of dental decay are now confined to areas of social deprivation in the UK (for example, in Middlesbrough, inner London, Merseyside, Manchester, Leicester). Many people experience very little decay and its consequences nowadays whereas a significant minority still suffer toothache, abscesses, poor aesthetics and general anaesthesia for tooth removal.

Talking fluoride in water: a short video in which enthusiasts discuss it.

Here is a short video produced by our American colleagues which is a comprehensive summary of fluoride in water

The chief medical officers of the United Kingdom recently released a supportive statement which contains a lot of useful information

There are many benefits of fluoridation; the general health aspects have been reassured through  extensive scrutiny and monitoring; it is popular and well supported both professionally and publicly; and it is above reproach ethically. The Americal Dental Association’s “Fluoridation Facts” offers additional information as a supplement to this website. Podcasts and ebooks are also available.

Please explore the website: our frequently asked questions section is useful if you have any queries. Our Key Issues section contains much of the evidence base for fluoridation with key references.