More than half a century ago, adding fluoride to public water supplies was viewed by some on the political right as a communist plot against America. In more recent years, members of the environmental left have alleged that fluoridated water poses a potential health risk.

Now, nearly 65 years after Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first U.S. city in which sodium fluoride was added to its water supply as a way to improve its citizens’ dental health, Lynn Haven is caught in the jaws of the dispute.

Bay County health officials have asked the city to consider adding fluoride to its water system. Lynn Haven is the only municipality in the county that does not add fluoride or have enough natural fluoride in its water for an optimal level to prevent cavities. About 60 percent of the nation’s water supply contains fluoride.

Mayor Walter Kelley wisely is taking a cautious approach. He said the city staff will continue to ask questions, look at the cost and try to determine what is best for the citizens of Lynn Haven. That’s as it should be.

There are two primary issues to debate:

• Do the benefits of fluoridation clearly outweigh any risks?

• And should the city engage in a form of compulsory mass medication, i.e., force its citizens to ingest a chemical for their own good?

The dark specter of communist subterfuge has all but vanished, but the health concerns of fluoridation remain hotly debated. The Fluoride Action Network will give you “50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation” that range from the compound no longer being necessary to promote dental health to it being a “cumulative poison” with a host of adverse effects.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute offer numerous arguments with links to studies refuting the anti-fluoride alarmism.

Yes, those are government entities — put on your skepticism caps, but make sure they’re not tin-foil hats.

The fractious debate over global warming has raised valid questions and concerns over whether political agendas and the pursuit of public funding have trumped the scientific method and the impartial quest for knowledge.

But there’s other comparisons to be made, such as to the idea that childhood vaccines cause autism. That is an emotional issue for many parents of autistic children, but there is virtually no scientific evidence to establish the link. That hasn’t prevented continued advocacy to scale back or abolish vaccination schedules.

We believe there are genuine benefits to fluoridated water, and that more than 50 years of research have confirmed its safety. But read through the arguments on both sides and decide for yourself.

Even if the process is beneficial, though, that doesn’t automatically mean it should be employed. Unlike vaccinations, which prevent the spread of communicable diseases through casual contact and thus constitute a valid public health concern for government to address, fluoridation’s primary benefit is stronger teeth. That’s important to you, but you’re also not in danger of catching your neighbor’s cavities if the tap water isn’t fluoridated. People ultimately should be responsible for their own dental hygiene.

Lynn Haven should discuss these issues openly with its residents and gauge public opinion before deciding if it wants to remain with the 40 percent of American cities that haven’t joined the fluoridation movement.