Fluoride. Just the mention of this word stirs up strong feelings, both from those in favor of water fluoridation and from those opposed to it.

I’m sure you have your own personal opinion on the subject, but what I’d like to know is how much do people actually know about fluoridation? Read this to pick your brain and help you decide if yours is an educated opinion.

Did you know there are different kinds of fluoride? Fluoride is an element which bonds to other elements very easily. In nature, fluoride often bonds with calcium. Actually, our water already contains some of this type of fluoride. This is also the type of fluoride used to do studies on the health benefits from fluoride, according to “Water Fluoridation, A Manual for Engineers & Technicians” from the United States Department of Health & Human Services.

The kind of fluoride in toothpastes is sodium fluoride. But these compounds are different from hydrofluorosilisic acid, which is what is added to our water.

Hydrofluorosilisic acid is a compound which is 20 percent fluoride and contains arsenic, boron, chromium, strontium, mercury and lead, too, as explained in a chemical analysis report from CAL Limited, of Ireland. (Chemical Analysis Confidential Report No. W8158) If the fluoride being put into our water isn’t naturally occurring, where does it come from?

The fluoride put into the drinking water is a waste product “of the phosphorus and phosphate fertilizer industries,” according to “The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs and Biologicals.”

This fluoride is scrubbed from the pipes to keep it from being released into the air and water as pollution (“Fluorine Recovering in the Fertilizer Industry,” Phosphorus & Potassium Magazine, Sept/Oct 1979). It’s also used for various other purposes: as an insecticide, sterilizing equipment, tanning animal hides, in nerve gases, in rat poison, and for removing rust (www.indresgroup.com).

Shouldn’t it be a personal choice to use fluoride? Fluoride is a medicine. It is toxic. (Look at the warning on fluoridated toothpastes.) It has a higher toxicity than lead, but a slightly lower toxicity than arsenic, according to the “Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products.”

Except for when teeth are being formed, in the early stages of life, there are no extra benefits from ingesting fluoride rather than choosing to apply it topically, as explained in “Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist.”

We already ingest some fluoride in foods and drinks we consume, and of course, there won’t be a dose right for everyone. It’ll be like those gloves claiming “one size fits most” when actually they don’t seem to fit anyone! It ought to be a choice for every single person.

Fluoride is not required for life, but water is. If we don’t drink water: we die. Even drinking bottled water isn’t a guarantee it’s not fluoridated.

Because it’s naturally attracted to calcium, fluoride can take calcium from people’s bones and, especially in older citizens, can cause osteoporosis. Too much fluoride can also be deposited in people’s teeth making them crumbly and ugly.

What is the solution to cavities? Although we, as a society, are often looking for shortcuts, the truth is that most good things come as the reward of effort. If we want positive things to happen, we have to do the work required to make them happen. If you want cavity-free teeth, you’ll have to make the effort to care for them. Keep them clean. Brush morning and night. Floss once a day, every day. Have them cleaned by a dentist every six months. If anything’s going to help your teeth, this will.

Although none of us want to hear it, the thing that would help our teeth the most would be a change in diet, according to the research of dentist Weston A. Price of Cleveland, Ohio. Eating less processed, refined foods and less foods high in sugar would be greatly beneficial to our teeth. We need to make personal dental hygiene a higher priority by adjusting our own everyday routines.

If all milk were chocolate, those people who didn’t want or like chocolate milk would be upset.

They’d want a choice. Shouldn’t each of us be free to choose fluoride or no fluoride for ourselves? Isn’t that part of being a citizen of America?

You decide about fluoride because my opinion is it won’t “fit all” and it won’t “cure all.”