The Ethics of Water Fluoridation

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Canadian Dental Association, Flouride, Dental Fluorosis, Medical Ethics, Policy


In a recent CDA member information bulletin entitled “Fluoride and Dentistry,” the following question was posed: “If fluoride is available from many sources, and the prevalence of dental fluorosis among children is increasing, why does CDA continue to support water fluoridation?” In this paper, we take a brief look at this question from an ethical perspective.

Formal ethical reflection and analysis have become expected components of decision making for all health professionals. Ethics is the branch of philosophy that explores value-laden decision making and conduct. Fair and respectful health policy and practice require an understanding of the values that underlie our choices. Decisions made in clinical practice and in public health policy should be a reflection of the values and beliefs of individual decision makers and of society as a whole. Ethically sound health care policy-making requires balancing the potential benefits and harms of all alternatives. Assessing the ethical validity of the CDA policy on water fluoridation therefore requires a consideration of the potential benefits and harms of water fluoridation.


PDF copies available via the Canadian Dental Association