The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Where millions of Americans drink water enhanced with fluoride, Montana ranks 47th in the number of people who do.

Should that change?

Bozeman has added fluoride to its community water system since 1953 although recently there was a campaign by anti-fluoride groups to end that practice. Billings voters said no way, and recently in Portland Oregon, voters said no, too.

Our Good Question: Should we fluoridate our water?

Almost all water contains some naturally occurring fluoride, usually at levels too low to prevent tooth decay on its own; so many communities choose to add it to their city water called community water fluoridation. Missoula doesn’t do it; Kalispell voters rejected the idea more than a decade ago.

“About 2/3 of the communities in the country have fluoride in their drinking water so I think we’re somewhat of an exception if you look at it on a national basis,” said Dr. Tom Roberts.

Dr. Tom Roberts sits on the Missoula City/County Public Health Board. And where Missoula itself isn’t actively talking about fluoridation, he knows it’s been a hot button issue around the country, “That’s really the question, is this public health or is this mass medication. And you can make an argument in either direction.

Still, most dentists and the CDC agree fluoride helps prevent tooth decay.

“When we ingest the fluoride it helps in the development of teeth, we think of that when pediatricians recommend them for children.” said Dr. Brett Felton, DDS.

Dr. Felton says flouridated water helps adults fight tooth decay, too. Especially those who struggle with their own oral health, it also benefits lower income children who might not have access to regular dental care, and that’s where it becomes a public health issue.

But groups including the “Fluoride Action Network” and “Fluoride Free America” are adamantly against it.

The Fluoride action network calls it: an outdated form of mass medication, unnecessary, ineffective in preventing tooth decay. And unsafe, and can cause everything from cancers, low IQ’s, and Alzheimer’s.

Carol Kopf of the Fluoride Action network says “contrary to popular belief, fluoride is neither a nutrient nor essential for healthy teeth.

People will say there is no real evidence of harm and that its junk science.

We get our information from the same scientific peer reviews journals, the very ones they read. The absence of evidences doesn’t mean the absence of harm.

“None of that is true. Fluoride has never been shown to have those adverse effects. I think in a lot of places where it’s been brought up, people are not interested in having Big Brother or government or the authorities tell them what to do. There’s a lot of fear out there about small things in the environment and sometimes that overshadows how we could be approaching public health,” said Roberts.