Australia began adding fluoride to drinking water in the 1960s. Now about 90% of us drink fluoridated water. Experts say that it’s a safe and effective method for achieving healthy teeth for children, and also adults. However, some people say we should stop, so it’s important to look at the facts.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride isn’t a medication – it’s a substance found naturally in air, rock, plants, soil and water. One argument against fluoride is that it’s listed as a poison and used as an insecticide. However fluoride is only a poison when used in excessive amounts.
Water fluoridation involves adding very small amounts of fluoride, which increases the amount already there naturally up to a level that is still safe.
Fluoride is similarly added to toothpaste and gels.
In addition, research on water fluoridation has not only finds it prevents tooth decay, there’s no evidence it causes health problems, such as weakened bones or cancer. It’s also the least expensive way to provide fluoride to all children and adults, by adding a benefit, over and above just using fluoride toothpaste and gels.
What to do?
In addition to drinking fluoridated water, your children’s teeth need protection as they develop, including:
- Start low-fluoride toothpaste at 18 months and continue until 6 years old
- Use a child-size toothbrush with soft bristles
- Use a pea-size amount of toothpaste, smeared over the toothbrush
- Supervise your child when they brush until you’re sure they can do it well
And if your water isn’t fluoridated, see a dental professional to discuss making up for it with additional fluoride.
- Speak with your dentist
- Visit the Australian Dental Association website