Get Started with a Free Water Consultation

Water Contaminant Spotlight: Is Fluoride In Water Bad?


Is fluoride in drinking water bad for you? The general answer is no. Water fluoridation is an intentional effort to protect public health by preventing or even reversing the development of cavities, which start at the tooth enamel but can lead to more serious impacts throughout the body. That means fluoride in drinking water may be good for you in more ways than one.

There are certain concerns related to excessive consumption of fluoride — particularly dental fluorosis, a cosmetic discoloration of tooth enamel. However, serious health issues are rare and often limited to accidental ingestion — for example, children ingesting an excessive amount of toothpaste.

Read on to learn more about fluoride and whether you need to consider removing it from your drinking water.

The Health Effects of Fluoride

Water fluoridation has been rigorously studied. A number of public health institutions — including Health Canada, the American Dental Association and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — support this effort across North American communities.

Here’s a look at the health effects of fluoride:

Oral Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 25% in both children and adults.

When you eat, drink or even share a kiss, bacteria build up in your mouth. Some of these bacteria make acid, which attacks tooth enamel and creates tiny holes that enable decay and cavities. This, in turn, can cause discomfort, infections, gum disease and tooth loss. You can’t necessarily stop these bacteria, but you can strengthen and repair tooth enamel to more effectively defend against it — and that’s what fluoride does for your oral health.

Fluoride does this by making enamel more resistant to acid and encouraging the buildup of healthy minerals. In children under six years old, fluoride may even integrate into the teeth during growth, resulting in better oral health throughout life.

Although drinking water fluoridation is one of the easiest, most effective ways to get this mineral, there are supplemental sources and solutions, too. Many toothpastes and mouthwashes have small amounts of fluoride — and since you don’t ingest these products, they don’t contribute to your daily fluoride intake. That means most people can generally drink fluoridated water and use fluoride products at the same time.

Overall Health

Fluoride is most often associated with avoiding a trip to the dentist, but this mineral can be good for your overall health, too. That’s because tooth decay and cavities can lead to problems with:

  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Speaking
  • Focusing
  • Learning

In some cases, untreated cavities can also cause infections that spread throughout the body and have potentially serious consequences. As such, water fluoridation prevents oral and general health concerns at the same time.

Bonus: Cost Savings

While not necessarily a health effect, fluoride does have one other significant benefit: saving money for community systems and communities alike. Preventing tooth decay reduces the cost of dental treatment, insurance utilization and more — which, in turn, supports the local and general economy.

Questions About Fluoridation Impacts

It’s important to acknowledge that, for all of fluoride’s positive effects, many people still have concerns about the safety of drinking water fluoridation.

The most common concern is dental fluorosis, which occurs when children drink fluoridated water while their teeth are still forming. The resulting discoloration is generally very mild and doesn’t impact dental health. Severe cases can occur but are especially rare — and that’s because various public health organizations set fluoride limits. For example, according to the CDC, guidance on community water fluoridation is based on the optimal fluoride level to prevent tooth decay while also reducing the risk of dental fluorosis.

Other potential but rare risks of excessive fluoride consumption include skeletal fluorosis, thyroid issues and neurological problems. However, many of the most significant risks — for example, cancers such as osteosarcoma — are based on outdated or ambiguous research; after careful reassessment, numerous organizations have found no clear connections between fluoride and cancer.

Your Guide To Fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral compound derived from the chemical element fluorine. It’s the 13th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and is released from rocks, ending up just about everywhere — including in soil, air, water and food. That means you already get fluoride in your diet, but likely not enough to prevent tooth decay. This is part of what led researchers to begin adding fluoride to community water supplies as early as 1945.

Water fluoridation, which refers to the process of synthetically adding fluoride to drinking water, is driven by evidence that fluoride helps reduce the prevalence of dental health problems. In general, synthetically modified water has an average fluoride concentration of 1 milligram per liter (mg/L) added, while naturally occurring fluoride concentrations don’t usually exceed 0.2 mg/L. However, because fluoride levels differ between locations, some natural water sources can have higher amounts.

Public health organizations in North America release guidance on water fluoridation. For example, according to the CDC, the recommended fluoride level in drinking water is 0.7 milligrams per liter. To further protect communities from the potential, often-mild effects of ingesting too much fluoride, many organizations set drinking water standards. The EPA has two noteworthy limits:

  • Primary limit: The EPA states that the maximum amount of fluoride allowable in public water sources is 4.0 mg/L.
  • Secondary standard: This limit — 2.0 mg/L — is specifically intended to help protect young children from dental fluorosis.

These standards are important because not all fluoride comes from synthetic sources. Public health systems should monitor total fluoride levels to make sure the optimal amounts are added.

Keep in mind that many water systems have fluoride levels that fall well below even the secondary standard. The EPA maintains these limits so consumers can see how high the maximum is set and how low the actual fluoride level is by comparison, encouraging communities to learn more about the safety of fluoridation.

Water Filtration for Fluoride

Although fluoride in drinking water has many potential benefits and very few significant health concerns, there are still reasons you may want to remove this mineral from your water supply.

First, you should find out how much fluoride is present in your drinking water. If you live in the U.S., you can start by using this CDC fluoride tool, which will show you fluoridation information specific to your state, county and water system.

For a more specific look at your water quality, you’ll need an in-home water test and consultation. A certified lab can perform this test for you. If you have this done through Culligan’s IL EPA-certified lab, your local Culligan® water expert can then help you decide whether fluoride removal is necessary.

If you want to move forward with water filtration, the best choice is a reverse osmosis (RO) water filter. With up to seven stages of filtration and 14 interchangeable filters, Culligan RO systems are certified to reduce fluoride in your water but also address many more contaminants that could be in your water.*

Learn More About Your Water

Fluoride treatment doesn’t just happen at the dentist. Thanks to careful research and significant advancements in public health, your tap water is also a source of enamel-building, cavity-destroying fluoride.

Although some people have questions about the effects, fluoride is generally good for both your oral and overall health. However, if you’d prefer to have fluoride removed from your water supply, reverse osmosis systems are an effective, comprehensive filtration solution.

Start by learning more about your water quality and content. Schedule your free water test and consultation today.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

Find A Location Near Me


Schedule Your Free
In-Home Water Test

Get better water in your home by scheduling an appointment with your local Culligan Water Expert.

Our Products

blue wave
Water Softeners

Water Softeners

With any of our soft water systems, get more out of your water-using appliances while spending less on energy and detergent.

View Products

Water Delivery

Water Delivery

There’s never been a better time to enjoy the convenience of scheduled bottled water deliveries from the Culligan® Water Experts

View Products

Water Filtration Systems

Water Filtration Systems

Culligan's water filtration systems have improved water quality for thousands of families worldwide.

View Products