What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is an ionic compound of fluorine, a highly reactive substance found naturally in many rocks and in the Earth’s crust. The minerals and salts of fluoride are used to create numerous industrial chemicals. For example, fluoride is used to produce hydrogen fluoride for fluorocarbons.

Fluorine is the most reactive element that exists in the natural world. In its native form fluorine is a pale yellow gas that is highly corrosive, reacting with most organic and inorganic compounds that it touches. Fluorine has an atomic number of 9 and has the chemical symbol F. The name derives from the Latin and French word “fluere,” meaning flow or flux.

Fluoride, as a compound, is able to alter the structure of tooth enamel to make it less susceptible to degradation by acid. Many foods we eat are acidic, and a small amount of fluoride on your teeth provides prolonged protection from acid attack and overall decay. Fluoride for this use is found in most toothpastes that we use every day.

Why is Fluoride Added to Water?

The public associates fluoride with dental care because the compound is added to public water supplies in order to prevent tooth decay and cavities. This practice began in the 1930s, when scientists discovered that people living in communities with naturally fluoridated water tended to have fewer cavities than those without fluoridated water.

Of the 90% of water systems that are public in the United States, approximately 67% of systems have fluoridated water. There is a two-thirds chance that the water you are drinking has been treated with fluoride.

Adding fluoride to public water supplies is an action endorsed by several groups, including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, many cities in the United States have voted to stop fluoridating their local water supplies, arguing that the action isn’t necessary and could potentially be causing harm. As USA Today reported, seven cities held votes or debates regarding water fluoridation last year.

How Much Fluoride Is In My Water?

The difficulty of answering this question helps illustrate why some organizations are advocating for the removal of fluoride from the public water supply, or at least a reduction in the chemical’s use. Simply put: the level of fluoride present in your tap water can greatly vary. The only way to determine exactly how much fluoride is in your water is to conduct a water test.

In most municipalities, fluoride is added to water at a concentration of about 1 milligram per liter. In 2015, however, the US Department of Health and Human Services recommended dropping this amount to 0.7 milligrams per liter, in acknowledgment of the fact the general population has access to fluoride through toothpaste and mouth rinses.

This does not mean that utilities uniformly ad 1 milligram per liter of fluoride to your water. Practices differ across the country, and maintaining a consistent level of fluoride in the public water supply is more challenging than you may think due to fluorine’s reactive qualities.

While the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for fluoride is 4 mg/L, the World Health Organization recommends a maximum fluoride value of 1.5 mg/L as a level at which dental fluorosis should be minimal.

Is Fluoride Necessary?

General scientific consensus holds that exposure to small amounts of fluoride is safe. But is it necessary for improved dental health?

The usage of fluoride in the public water supply to prevent tooth decay is not a universally accepted practice. In fact, most European countries stopped fluoridating their water in the 1970s, and some European countries never started. According to The Guardian only four continental European countries support national water fluoridation.

In European countries that have abandoned water fluoridation the rate of tooth decay in the citizenry has either remained the same or continued to decrease, despite the lack of fluoride in the water. The World Health Organization compiled data that show the rate of tooth decay around the world decreases steadily, regardless of the fluoridation of the water supply.

Health Effects of Fluoride

The necessity of fluoride is certainly questionable. But is it safe? Can it have negative health effects?

We stated above that small amounts of fluoride are considered safe by those in the dental industry. The complexity of this issue lies in how modern Americans typically consume fluoride: most people drink fluoridated water and use dental products like toothpaste that contain fluoride. Toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association is guaranteed to have an effective amount of fluoride in each dosage.

If you brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste the extra fluoride in your water can tip the scale and cause you to ingest too much fluoride each day. Prolonged overexposure to fluoride can cause:

Dental Fluorosis: This condition occurs when people, usually children, ingest excessive fluoride during the formation of their tooth enamel. Dental fluorosis is characterized by a hypomineralization of one’s tooth enamel. Visual signs of dental fluorosis include streaky white stains on teeth.

Severe dental fluorosis can cause physical damage to teeth, called pitting. Stains, marks, and pitting from dental fluorosis are permanent, and will darken over time. The CDC itself admits dental fluorosis is common, with up to 41 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 15 showing some signs of the condition.

Gastrointestinal Issues: As children we are routinely told not to ingest toothpaste. Why is that? Fluoride has been connected to common gastrointestinal issues like nausea and vomiting. Individuals with skeletal fluorosis have been documented to experience higher rates of GI problems compared to the rest of the population.

In an article published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry in 1997 it was noted that, “parents or caregivers may not notice the symptoms associated with mild fluoride toxicity or may attribute them to colic or gastroenteritis, particularly if they did not see the child ingest fluoride. Similarly, because of the nonspecific nature of mild to moderate symptoms, a physician’s differential diagnosis is unlikely to include fluoride toxicity without a history of fluoride ingestion.”

While fluoride is not as serious a contaminant as lead or arsenic, many homeowners and parents may understandably try to limit the amount of fluoride their children consume through their tap water.

Does Bottled Water Contain Fluoride?

Depending on the source of the water many bottled water brands may contain fluoride. In fact, because bottled water is not held to the same testing standards as public drinking water the fluoride levels may be much higher in bottled water compared to your tap water.

Bottled water can be a primary culprit for instances of excessive fluoride consumption. Bottled water companies are not legally required to indicate if their brands have fluoride added to the water. Many different third-party websites have tried to compile lists of bottled water brands that do not contain fluoride, but we have no way to verify these claims.

Instead of buying bottled water and contributing to plastic waste, use filted the tap water in your own home to more safely consume water without high levels of fluoride.

How to Test Your Water for Fluoride

If you obtain your water from a private well you are responsible for maintaining your water’s cleanliness and for testing it yourself. You most likely are not adding fluoride to your private well, but it is true that your municipality will not know if there is a contaminant in your drinking water or if certain compounds like fluoride are present in unadvisable concentrations. Fluoride occurs naturally, so the groundwater that your well utilizes could have a high concentration of fluoride.

If you believe the drinking water in your home may contain too much fluoride the best course of action is to conduct a water test at home. There are many options available for water testing in your home. Pelican Water carries various types of testing kits based on your budget and needs.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to determine your current fluoride levels. The Pelican 12-Point Rapid Water Test will test for fluoride, along with 11 other common contaminants and compounds. This is the most affordable water test we carry, and it will measure the amount of fluoride in your drinking water.

Once your water arrives, follow these instructions:

  1. Carefully read all of the instructions on the packaging to guarantee a valid sample.
  2. Follow the instructions provided to gather a water sample for testing.
  3. Using FedEx or UPS Overnight Saver, return your kit with the sample to the testing laboratory location indicated in the instructions. Note: return shipping is not included.
  4. The lab will process the results of your water test within 7 to 10 days of receiving your kit.
  5. Read your results once they have been mailed back to you.

After reading your water quality analysis report it’s best to contact the lab that conducted the testing if you have any questions. If you are still having trouble determining the concentration of fluoride in your drinking water contact Pelican Water directly.

How to Remove Fluoride From Water

Removing fluoride from your water is a complex chemical process. Some contaminants can be eliminated or reduced by boiling water, but this is not the case with fluoride. If you choose to reduce the amount of fluoride in your tap water you will need to invest in a proper filtration system.

The EPA recommends that families that want to remove fluoride from their water use reverse osmosis filters, catalytic carbon media filters, or activated alumina (aluminum oxide) media filters. These are the only guaranteed methods of reducing fluoride. Other common methods of water filtration do not adequately address fluoride.

Best Fluoride Water Filters

After conducting a water test, if you decide to reduce the amount of fluoride in your home drinking water consider one of these options:

FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis 5-Stage - Reverse osmosis water systems are designed to reduce many harmful chemicals and contaminants to deliver better tasting drinking water to your tap. Our FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis systems reduces fluoride, cysts, arsenic, lead, turbidity, copper, chromium, and several other common contaminants found in drinking water. Pentair FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis Systems deliver worry-free water in a snap.

Whole House Fluoride Water Filter System - This whole house system uses high grade BoneChar carbon to reduce fluoride in your drinking water. Standard carbon filters cannot handle fluoride, but this specialized comprehensive filter system can handle up to 15 gallons per minute (gpm) and can reduce fluoride down to 1 part per million (ppm). The 3-year capacity is the best value on any whole house fluoride filter system in America!

You already brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride, so why are you drinking it? If you have any questions about our products or about protecting your family from fluoride contact a Pelican Water specialist today.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been reviewed by the FDA. Products offered for sale herein are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. No medical claims are being made or implied. Contaminants mentioned are not necessarily in your water.