The Truth about Fluoride – Debunking the Myths

By Dr. Weston Heringer, Jr.

Fluoride is natures cavity fighter with small amount present in all water sources such as lakes, rivers and wells. Communities fluoridate their water supply as a cost-effective public health measure to help prevent tooth decay and cavities in both children and adults. According to the best available scientific evidence, water fluoridation is safe and effective. Thousands of studies and more than 65 years of experience tells us that water fluoridation is effective in preventing tooth decay and is safe for children and adults. Even with all the science, there are still a lot of misconceptions about community water fluoridation so let’s talk through them.


1. Fluorosis. Fluorosis can occur before teeth erupt from the gums if teeth are exposed to too much fluoride. The vast majority of fluorosis is very minor, barely detectable white spots on the teeth, that does not affect how they function or a person’s overall health. There are studies that suggest that fluoride occurs more frequently in African American children, however more research is needed on the topic. Fluoridation is implemented because dental decay is widespread, the burden of which falls unfairly  among some  population groups.  The National Dental Association, representing African American dentists, and the Hispanic Dental Association both endorse community water fluoridation as safe and beneficial.

2. IQ. According to the best available scientific evidence, there is no association between fluoridation and brain development or lower IQ. The studies often cited are from China, India, and Mexico where environmental conditions are significantly different than those in Oregon. The vast majority of these studies have never been published in peer-reviewed journals and the quality of these studies does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

3. Osteosarcoma. In 2011, a team of researchers from Harvard University, the Medical College of Georgia and the National Cancer Institute published a study that analyzed hundreds of bone samples from nine hospitals over an 8 year period from patients with osteosarcoma and a control group to measure fluoride in levels in the bone. Considered the most extensive study to date, the results indicated NO CONNECTION between fluoride levels and osteosarcoma. All the other organizations and agencies that have looked at this issue – including the FDA, National Cancer Institute, California EPA Office of Environmental  Health Hazard Assessment – have concluded the same thing.

4. Infant Formula. Although we encourage all parents and caregivers to talk to their dentist of physicians about their child fluoride intake, community water fluoridation has been proven to be safe for children, including babies. Babies who are fed powdered or liquid concentrate infant formula mixed with optimally fluoridated water might develop mild enamel fluorosis, which is a cosmetic condition and has no effect on how they function.


Water that has been fortified with fluoride is similar to fortifying salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D and orange juice with vitamin C. Community water fluoridation saves more than it costs. Studies show that community water fluoridation prevent at least 25 percent of tooth decay.

Want more information on fluoride? You can find extensive information in Fluoridation Facts, the ADA’s comprehensive publication with facts from over 350 scientific references.


Dr. Heringer is a retired pediatric dentist and has served on 19 overseas dental trips. He operated a private practice in Salem for 30 years with a satelite office in Lincoln City for 26 years. For the last two years of his career he was the full time dentists on the Tooth Taxi, a mobile dental van providing free care to children in Oregon. Dr. Heringer is a past president of the Oregon Dental Association and is a board member of the Dental Foundation of Oregon.

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