Community water fluoridation makes so much sense. It’s a proven and cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay. Why would anyone be against it? Yet some are. Those who are against community water fluoridation fall into two groups: the opposition and the misinformed.
Three Tips to Success
The opposition: who they are and what they say
The opposition is the most extreme in their beliefs against fluoridation and won’t listen to sound science and reasoning. They use junk science to make unfounded claims and use fear tactics to gain support. Here are a few examples of their extreme claims:
- Fluoride is a toxic chemical. It’s poison.
- Adding fluoride to water is a form of forced medication by the government.
- Fluoridation causes cancer, autism, and other serious health problems.
- European countries do not fluoridate their water, so why should we.
- Studies show that fluoridation lowers children’s IQ
The opposition, though small in number, is very loud, vocal, and persuasive. They are often persistent and will twist or use half-truths to skew information or data to support their view. They are very organized, dominate social media and other user-generated online content, and are willing to speak at local town meetings to spread lies and scare residents. They have been known to tear down or steal lawn signs that are supportive of community water fluoridation, or mail flyers with images such as rat poison likening it to fluoridation. Do not be afraid, but be ready.
Fluoride Action Network
The most prominent opposition organization is the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) led by Paul Connett and his son Michael Connett. FAN’s website is extremely credible looking, yet spouts conspiracy theories linking community water fluoridation with the atomic bomb, and often cite studies by John Yiamouyiannis, who, at one point in time, claimed that HIV was caused by water fluoridation.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT go to the FAN’s website (See the screen shot). The more traffic it receives, the better the search ranking it gets (meaning when someone googles “fluoride” or “fluoridation,” the opposition websites will come first rather than the websites with facts), which will lower the ranking of the trusted, credible sources such as ILikeMyTeeth by the Campaign for Dental Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association, and more.
How to respond
Because the opposition does not listen to sound science and reason, no amount of persuasion will help change their mind. The opposition looks to argue and debate in order to plant a seed of doubt or confusion and scare people into believing their lies. When confronted by the opposition — whether in a public forum, one-on-one, or via social media — stick to your message and talking points. Never use the language of the opposition.
Do not use the following words when talking about community water fluoridation, as they are commonly used by the opposition to create unfounded fear and concerns about water fluoridation:
- Toxin, toxic
- Poison, poisonous
- Medication, medicine
Instead, describe fluoride the correct way. Fluoride is naturally occurring in water. Community water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the natural levels of fluoride in drinking water (up or down) for optimal oral health. Fluoride is a nutrient similar to vitamin D which we have used to fortify milk for years.
The misinformed: who they are and what they say
On the other hand, the misinformed are those who have heard some of the opposition’s claims and have been misled. They can be concerned parents, those who have suffered from chronic disease, or environmental enthusiasts. The misinformed will often say that they “know of studies that show fluoride is bad,” but can’t tell you which studies. They often believe:
- Fluoridation causes fluorosis, and fluorosis is a dangerous disease.
- The label on fluoride toothpaste warning to “keep out of reach of children” is an indication that fluoride in water is dangerous and isn’t safe for children.
- Individuals should be able to choose if they want fluoridated water or not rather than have it “forced” on them.
How to Respond
Thankfully, this group may be open to learning the true facts about fluoridation, and even some will become supporters. Listen to their concerns and correct misinformation with your sound messages and facts. Never repeat the claims and trigger words of the opposition. Use the following materials:
Stay positive and stick to your message and talking points!
NOTE: Wikipedia is not a credible source for information on water fluoridation since anyone (including opponents) can update or add content.