Fluoride is a chemical that is added to public water supply by many local governments in order to prevent tooth decay. Water fluoridation is the practice of adding supplemental fluoride in the form of sodium fluoride (NaF) to the water supply in order to help prevent dental caries in the general population.
Fluoride is a slightly altered, or ionic, form of the chemical element fluorine.
In 1951, two researchers from Indiana University published an article in the Journal of Nutrition, which reported that fluoride prevented tooth decay in rats fed corn and sugar. Following this paper, the University sold its fluoridation technology to Procter & Gamble, and the chemical was added to Crest® toothpaste.
Fluoride compounds, such as calcium fluoride, are naturally occurring in drinking water and foods and usually in very small amounts. Today, fluoride is generally consumed in supplemental form because it is added to drinking water by many municipal governments.
Most major health advocacy organizations and government agencies support adding moderate amounts of fluoride to water in order to lower community rates of dental complications. At present, Dannon is the only company in the United States that adds fluoride to its bottled water.
Although there is strong scientific evidence suggesting that water fluoridation is safe, some individuals and advocacy organizations oppose water fluoridation, citing anecdotal evidence that the ingestion of the chemical may damage the brain and increase the risk for bone cancer in adolescent boys.
The American Dental Association and the World Health Organization currently recommend raising the amount of fluoride in water supplies to an amount slightly above levels currently established by most worldwide municipal governments. Currently, municipal governments add fluoride to water at a rate of 0.7-1.2 parts per million. The controversy surrounding the potential adverse effects of fluoride are focused upon its addition or reduction in municipal water supplies.
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