Water Fluoridation: A review of its history, controversy and mechanism of action

by Jay | Updated on August 1st, 2022

According to the American Dental Association, sixty-seven percent of American communities have public fluoridated water systems. Fluoridation of the first US public water system occurred in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on January 25th, 1945.

Studies and research conducted by the ADA have shown that since that time, community water fluoridation has reduced the caries rate in children, approximately twenty-nine percent.

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The optimal fluoride levels for these water systems range from .7 to 1.2 parts per million. Many other countries, however, do not fluoridate their water. Although the reasons vary with each country, none have discontinued or refused to adopt fluoridation due to proven health problems.


In 1909 a dentist by the name of Frederick McKay was interested in knowing why some children in the Pike’s peak region of Colorado developed a brown, mottled stain on their teeth.

Despite the negative appearance, it was noted that these children had a lower caries rate than many other children. After consultation with another notable dentist, G.V. Black, the answer was found after twenty-two years of research and study in 1931.

It was discovered that the discoloration was due to fluoride ions. The mineral cryolite, abundant in the Pike’s Peak region, contained fluorine, which would wash out during the runoff of rain and snowstorms. In addition, it was discovered that the regional water concentrations ranged from two to thirteen parts per million.

In 1935, Dr. H.Trendley Dean studied the caries rates in children in the Colorado area. His studies concluded that the optimum level for fluoride would be one part per million. This amount would give the necessary caries protection without the brown mottling of fluorosis.

Dr. Gerald J. Cox, in 1939, further proposed using fluoride in drinking water. Subsequent research and studies of fluoridated cities versus non-fluoridated ones verified the decrease in the number of caries in fluoridated communities.

In 1950, the ADA unequivocally accepted and encouraged the fluoridation of public water systems as a means of caries prevention.

The history of this mass medication of the public water supply

Gerald J. Cox was commissioned to find a use for the sodium fluoride by-product from the aluminum foundries, which were plagued with disposal problems. The difficulty and high disposal cost led them to search for a profitable use for this toxic contaminant.

Without any medical training or conducting any proper clinical research into safety, Gerald Cox made a public proposal that the United States should fluoridate its water supplies. Cox began to tour the U.S. promoting fluoridation, with the backing of most doctors and dentists. City and state governments were then pressured into fluoridating their water supplies.

The year 1950 saw the U.S. Public Health Service officially endorsing the concept of the addition of sodium fluoride to public water supplies.

Where Does Fluoride in Your Water Come From?

Fertilizers and Chemistry

The story begins with minerals. Humans have known the benefits of adding animal waste to topsoil to increase crop yields for centuries. What they did not know, until more recently, was what chemicals were present in this waste that contributed to bigger, juicier fruits and vegetables.

On all bags of fertilizer today, three little numbers outline the bag’s contents. These are, in order, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, three valuable nutrients in the life cycles of all organisms.

With the advent of the industrial revolution, it was discovered that large amounts of potassium and phosphorus could be mined cheaply from ancient marine rocks for agricultural usage.


Apatite, a mineral in the phosphate group, exists in the crust of the Earth in what is known as a “solid solution” in geochemistry. Apatite comprises calcium, phosphate, and varying proportions of fluoride, chloride, and hydroxide. It is one of the primary minerals mined today as a source of phosphate used in fertilizers.

In addition, in modern mining practices, numerous “waste” products are collected in tailing ponds, slag heaps, or recycled for use in other chemical products.

The source of the controversy begins here.

Tooth enamel, as well as animal bone, contains phosphate as the anion in the bond. While seventy percent of bone is made of the hydroxide version of the apatite mineral, ninety percent of tooth enamel is, which increases tooth enamel’s hardness compared to normal bone.

Therefore, when the hydroxide is replaced by fluoride in apatite, it becomes less vulnerable to attack by the acids secreted by oral bacteria. This is why fluoride is added to toothpaste and many municipal water systems.

Apatite is mined from marine strata, the phosphate is stripped away with acids, and fluoride remains in the form of hexafluorosilicic acid, which is sold to water management companies for use in municipal water fluoridation.

Sometimes, the byproducts are further refined into sodium fluoride or sodium fluorosilicate for use in toothpaste to fight tooth decay.

How it works

Some oral bacterium that causes dental caries uses the sugar and carbohydrates found in our food supply to produce acids that remove the minerals from the tooth. This is referred to as demineralization.

Increased and prolonged demineralization of tooth structure leads to caries development. Fluoride reverses this process by adding minerals back to the tooth. It remineralizes tooth enamel, making the tooth more resistant to caries development.

The controversy

The main controversy with fluoride stems from the fact that sodium fluoride is the main ingredient in rat poison, and fluoride in large concentrations can be extremely toxic. It has been proven that large amounts of fluoride can cause dental fluorosis. Opponents have tried to link fluoride to bone brittleness, cancer, reproductive problems, and general poisonings.

The main argument against opponents is that no valid scientific study on fluoridation has ever shown any health risk to humans. However, a 1991 Department of Health and Human Services study proved this accurate.

Studies by the CDC and ADA have likewise shown similar results. The second argument is that toxicity and ill effects are directly related to fluoride concentration. The amount used in the public water systems is well below toxic levels.

The many diseases and conditions connected to fluoridated water

Mass medication of sodium fluoride, a highly toxic poison that accumulates in the body, can dramatically increase one (especially hip) fractures, bone and liver cancers, tumors, deformities of the spine and major joints, fluorosis of the teeth, and impairment of memory and concentration.

Mongolism in infants and kidney damage have also been implicated, as has the interference of the body’s enzyme, vitamin and mineral functions.

Studies show effects of fluoride on impaired brain function and nervous system

A study published by P. Mullinix et al. reveals that “the functional output of the central nervous system is vulnerable to fluorides, and that the effects on behavior depend on the age at which exposure takes place and how much fluoride accumulates in brain tissue.”

Furthermore, “fluorides in drinking water affect the nervous system directly without first causing skeletal deformations from fluorosis.” Proponents of fluoridation typically use fluorosis as a measure of effect when neural effects occur at a very low dosage.

Another study showed that fluoride exposure could impair memory and concentration and produce lethargy, depression, and confusion in humans. Also noted in this study was the higher suicide rate in fluoride workers.

Some of the other diseases linked to the intake of sodium fluoride

Oral cancers, defective DNA enzyme repair system, depressed immune system, osteoporosis and low bone density, central nervous systems disorders such as learning disabilities and coordination problems, and infertility are connected to sodium fluoride intake.

Sodium Fluoride’s Toxicity explained.

This dangerous form of fluoride is more toxic than lead and slightly less than arsenic. It can even cause lead to leach from old plumbing and water mains pipes. In addition, cooking in aluminum cookware with fluoridated water can increase the aluminum concentration dramatically. Check out which water filter removes fluoride.


The ADA has stated that fluoridation is the most effective public health measure to prevent dental caries. In small doses, it is extremely effective.

In addition, studies and research by the ADA have proven it safe. Fluoridating water supplies benefit all, especially those who don’t seek regular dental care. Without it, dental-related illnesses would increase, as would its costs.

Not all cities fluoridate their water; un-fluoridated water is available at most grocery stores.

Whether you believe, as the International Chiropractor’s Association does, that fluoride deprives the populace of its right to be free from unwelcome medications or that it is one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in modern history in terms of oral health, as the American Dental Association claims, at least know where the stuff in your body comes from.

In this case, there is a little-known link between every glass of water you drink and the first ancient people who learned manure helped their plants grow.


Jay is a health and wellness enthusiast with expertise in water quality and nutrition. As a knowledgeable advocate for holistic well-being, Jay successfully manages Type 2 Diabetes through informed lifestyle choices. Committed to sharing reliable and authoritative insights, Jay combines firsthand experience with a passion for enhancing health."