It's 2011 and fluoride is still a hotly debated topic, much like it was back in the day when Dwight Eisenhower was president. At that time, many thought that putting fluoride in American water systems to fight cavities was a plot by the communists to take over the country.
Communism is all but gone, yet in some communities the battle over fluoride is still being fought. Fluoride occurs naturally when fluorine, a pale yellow, nonmetallic element, dissolves in water and binds with other elements [source: Webster's New World Dictionary of Science]. Fluoride is a main ingredient in many toothpaste and mouth wash products.
In many communities, politicians and residents have recently been questioning whether they should continue to add fluoride to water systems since residents can get it in products they buy in the store. Most officials say it's not worth the cost to the community [source: Howard].
Regardless, fluoride has proven to be a sort of wonder drug for teeth. Here's how it works: Inside your mouth, bacteria fueled by sugar feast on enamel. As a result, the enamel loses the minerals that make it strong. Fluoride makes the enamel more resilient by disrupting the acids spewed by the bacteria in plaque. Not only can fluoride be found in water and some foods, but people can apply the compound directly by using fluoridated toothpaste and other products. The dentist can also shower the teeth with a fluoride gel or foam [source: WebMD].
Fluoride is in 59 percent of American drinking water. It is also in food and beverages, which are made with fluoridated water [source: Gilson]. Still, there is such a thing as too much fluoride. If used as directed, fluoride is safe and a proven cavity fighter. High doses of fluoride, however, can eat away at a tooth's enamel in a process called fluorosis [source: WebMD].