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The Fluoridation Debate Rages On
For many decades, the debate regarding the fluoridation of municipal water supplies in the United States has gone back and forth. With the advent of the internet and easier access to health and nutrition information, this debate has intensified even more. But what exactly IS fluoridation anyway, and why should anyone care about it? Is it actually harmful, or are people getting carried away with conspiracy theories? Let’s explore this topic in more detail.
Fluoride is an ionic compound associated with the element fluorine, which is found in nature in various types of rocks. So how does this chemical linked to an element found in rocks end up in drinking water?
In the mid-20th century, the United States government began adding fluoride to the water supplies of cities and counties around the country, a process which became referred to as fluoridation. This was done for public health reasons.
Proponents of fluoridation believed (and continue to believe) that the chemical is a public health benefit because it reduces the likelihood of tooth decay. The outermost layer of teeth, known as the enamel, can be weakened over time by exposure to high amounts of sugar (soft drinks and candy are especially bad in this regard). When this happens, cavities can form.
The enamel of the human tooth is composed of a special compound of hydrogen, phosphorous, oxygen and calcium, and is called hydroxyapatite. Scientists believe that fluoride can help the hydroxyapatite compound stay strong and prevent the weakening of the enamel.
So how much fluoride is in your water, exactly? When the practice began, the Department of Health and Human Services in the US allowed a range of 0.7 to 1.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. In 2015, the upper limit was lowered to a maximum of 0.7 milligrams due to the greater amount of fluoride in products like toothpaste.
But does it actually work?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), yes, it does. This US-based health agency states that levels of tooth decay and related conditions have dropped by quite a bit since fluoridation was introduced.
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