I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: nobody likes going to the dentist. To avoid all that painful drilling, you brush and floss like a good Samaritan, but even when you’re not paying attention, something else is at play. Perhaps you didn’t know this, but there is something in our water system that exists solely for the purpose of helping your teeth. Something that, despite its benefits, many conspiracy-oriented individuals are fighting against: the process of fluoridation.

Let’s break it down: First of all, fluoride is healthy for your teeth. Regardless of how “anti-fluoride” you are, you have to at least concede this one fact. It’s been proven by bundles of studies, and health practitioners across all fields will back it up. Fluoride prevents your tooth enamel from decaying, increasing your oral health and keeping your teeth nice and strong. It’s also the most common active ingredient in our toothpaste and mouthwash, so when it comes to oral care, it suffices to say we need the stuff.

Despite all these benefits, many groups dislike the idea of the government adding this helpful chemical to our water supply. Perhaps the biggest criticism that anti-fluoridationists (yes, that is what they call themselves) point out is the fact that too much fluoride is toxic. All I can say is … well, duh. In massive amounts, anything will kill you. Taking too much aspirin, eating too much peanut butter or even drinking too much non-fluoridated water will kill you. We have to remember it is not only the chemical, but the dose that is important. And, as of right now, the fluoride levels of tap water in cities all across the U.S. are hailed as “safe” by public health authorities.

Others claim it should be a matter of choice — that the government is over stepping its authority by “forcing” the public to drink fluoridated water (even though the decision to fluoridate is often open to referendums). From the argument on the surface, I might be inclined to agree with them — except that there really is no choice to be made. Fluoridated water has everything that non-fluoridated water has, just with a little bonus: healthier teeth. In the correct amounts, there is no harm to speak of when it comes to fluoride. It doesn’t change the smell, taste or color of water, meaning that there really is absolutely no reason to prefer non-fluoridated over fluoridated. And if for whatever reason you wanted “normal” water, there are plenty of specialized filtration systems you can buy just for that purpose.

Now, the process of fluoridation does cost the average taxpayer. How much you ask? Get ready for this: About one dollar per year for every U.S. citizen. Some might say that, even though it isn’t much, it’s the idea that we are “wasting” money on something like this when we shouldn’t be; after all, your teeth are just for looks, right? Well, it’s possible that fluoride doesn’t just protect your mouth. Scientists have discovered links between oral health and other health problems, meaning dirty teeth and bloody gums can potentially lead to heart attacks, diabetes and possibly even dementia. Fluoride prevents tooth decay; less tooth decay, less chance of oral diseases. This could potentially translate into less diseases overall, meaning less people using up our tax dollars on an already-overburdened health system. Furthermore, fluoride particularly helps those who need it the most, such as young children and people in low socio-economic areas who might otherwise not be able to afford dental care.

Desperate for something to go off of, anti-fluoridationists also point to the fact that several European countries have ceased in fluoridating their water, or never even started. This is true, but anti-fluoridationists fail to tell you one thing: Many of these countries still use fluoride, but now, they simply put it into their table salt. For whatever reason, today’s Europeans prefer to get their daily dose of oral care through their saltshaker.

Plus, fluoride already occurs naturally in water around the world. In fact, depending on the location, these fluoride levels can actually be rather high simply because of the environment. Before our species knew anything about keeping good dentistry, cavemen were accidentally drinking it from steams and rivers. And today, just about every credited dentist and doctor supports fluoridation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even listed water fluoridation as one of the best achievements of the 20th century. No study has determined a clear, causal link between current fluoride levels and public health problems. Actually examine the evidence and you’ll see that when it’s done properly, water fluoridation has a lot to offer.

Jay Grafft is very committed to making sure his pearly whites stay pearly.

Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.