Fluoride: friend or foe?

It's added to our water to help our teeth.

But in this economic recession, some cities across the country can't afford to keep fluoride in the water.

Pinellas County, on Florida TMs west coast, is just one of the many communities cutting out fluoride in their water.

It will end up saving the county an estimated $130,000 annually.

The county is not alone, about 200 other jurisdictions from Georgia to Alaska have chosen to take fluoride out.

But dentists said nixing the 13th most abundant element isn't a good idea.

"Fluoride in its optimum levels in ground water or water supplies is one of the top things that prevents tooth decay," Jay Reese, DDS said.

Communities have opted out of fluoridating their water due to tightened budgets

But dentists I talked to said in the long run, not having it will only end up costing us more.

"For every dollar spent, you're saving $38 on the back end that would be spent on dental care for that child," Reese said.

Those against fluoride in the water said it's poisonous, and that it makes us vulnerable to other health risks such as bone damage, arthritis and believe it's even linked to cancer.

"160-180 million people live where the water has fluoride in an optimal amount, I think if we were going to see a big problem that we'd know about it by now," Reese said.

But government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control promote fluoride and say it's a safe cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay.

The real science behind it indicates this is a very safe, very effective way to help our teeth," Reese said.

We wanted to find out if our local water suppliers are considering going fluoride free.

Columbia Public Works said they have no plans on taking it out, even though it costs the county $30,000 a year.

In Jefferson City the water company also will keep the fluoride in, also at a cost of more than $16,000 every year.

Both Dr. Reese and the Centers for Disease Control said it is possible to have too much fluoride.

Children are the most at risk for excessive amounts of fluoride since their teeth are still developing.

The CDC said consumption of fluoride over a lifetime may increase the likelihood of bone fractures, causing pain and tenderness, and a condition called skeletal fluorosis.