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Science in the News: Activity 2 of 3

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To fluoridate or not to fluoridate? That is the question! Water fluoridation, supported by the U.S. Public Health Service since 1951, is a widespread practice in the U.S. But citizens still disagree about whether it is safe to add fluoride, an ion of the chemical element fluorine, to their water supply.

Supporters believe that adding tiny amounts of fluoride to community drinking water is a safe and effective way of preventing cavities. They add that most fresh water naturally contains minute quantities of fluoride. Opponents counter that fluoride is a toxic chemical that can damage our bodies if we drink it. They argue that people should get their fluoride through toothpaste, which is not swallowed.

What do dentists say? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the oldest national dental society in the world: “Community water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay … Water that has been fortified with fluoride is similar to fortifying milk with Vitamin D, table salt with iodine, and bread and cereals with folic acid.” But a group of dissenting dentists is wary of the long-term effects of fluoride and call for further study on what happens when it accumulates in the body.


Photo: Darwin Bell / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Supporters of fluoridation

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