Water Fluoridation

June 2019
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An explanation of fluoride and fluoridation and answers to commonly asked questions relating to fluoridated water and oral health.

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June 2019
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Let's talk fluoride

  • It protects teeth
  • It’s safe
  • It’s natural
  • It’s cost-effective
  • It’s fair

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is one of the most common elements on earth. It is found in air, soil, plants, water and lots of foods.

How does fluoride help our teeth?

Fluoride helps to protect our teeth by making them stronger and reducing tooth decay.

What is water fluoridation?

New Zealand water supplies have very low levels of natural fluoride. Water fluoridation is the process of topping up the fluoride to provide protection against tooth decay.

Is all New Zealand drinking water fluoridated?

No. It’s a decision for each council and their community. Around 60% of New Zealanders drink fluoridated water. Nationally water fluoridation has been shown to reduce tooth decay.

Some countries choose not to fluoridate their water.

True. Some parts of the world have high enough levels of natural fluoride in their water so they don’t need to boost fluoride content. Other countries have different ways to deliver the benefits of fluoride.

Is water fluoridation safe?

Yes. Hundreds of peer reviewed and scientific studies over 60 years have found water fluoridation is very safe. It is supported by all the following international organisations:

  • World Health Organization
  • British Medical Association
  • British Dental Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • US Surgeon-General
  • US National Academy of Sciences
  • World Dental Federation
  • UK Royal College of Physicians
  • Australian National Health and Medical Research Association
  • New Zealand Ministry of Health
  • New Zealand Dental Council
  • Te Ao Marama (NZ Maori Dental Association)
  • New Zealand Medical Association
  • Public Health Association
  • NZ Cancer Society
  • Plunket
  • Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians

….and many more

Does fluoride just protect growing teeth?

No. Fluoride benefits everyone, from children to adults to older people, especially those most at risk of tooth decay.

Water has spiritual and cultural significance to Māori. Does fluoridation support this?

Yes. Water fluoridation can support the traditional concept of wai ora (the water of life). In fact fluoridated water brings dental health and well being by protecting the life of teeth.

Is water fluoridation expensive?

No. Water fluoridation is very cost-effective. The cost of adding fluoride to water is much less than the cost of fixing decaying teeth.

Does bottled water contain fluoride?

It depends on where the water comes from. If you are not sure, check the label.

Do water filters take out fluoride?

Some do, for example osmosis filters and steam distillers. Carbon filters don’t remove fluoride.

Myths & facts about water fluoridation

Is water fluoridation mass medication?

Fluoride is not a medicine or drug. It occurs naturally in water supplies. All we are doing is topping it up.

Does water fluoridation cause illnesses or diseases, such as bone fractures and cancer?

More than 60 years of scientific evidence shows water fluoridation is very safe.

Is fluoridated water toxic?

An adult would have to drink several thousand glasses of water at one sitting to get a lethal dose of fluoride. That much water would kill you long before fluoride became a problem.

Is the fluoride added to water an industrial waste product?

No, it is a natural by-product of a common manufacturing process. The fluoride compounds added to water are manufactured to exacting quality and purity standards. Once added to water, the new fluoride is no different to the fluoride found naturally.


Water fluoridation is:

Safe – it doesn’t cause any adverse health effects

Natural – once added to water it’s the same as naturally occurring fluoride

Effective – it helps fight tooth decay

Cost-effective – the benefits far outweigh the costs

Fair – it benefits the health of the whole of the community

Talk to your dentist or oral health professional for advice about other fluoride products if your water is not fluoridated.

Further information

Ministry of Health