Community water fluoridation

Fluoride is a natural substance that helps protect our teeth by making them stronger and by reducing tooth decay. It exists naturally in water and many foods, but at varying levels.

Fluoride protects our teeth from decay by:

  • strengthening the tooth surface, making teeth more resistant to decay
  • interfering with the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities (holes in your teeth)
  • helping to repair the early stages of tooth decay.

Fluoride in water acts like a constant repair kit that neutralises the effect of acids that cause decay, and helps to repair damage before it becomes permanent. In some areas fluoride levels are 'topped up' in water supplies to help improve oral health.

The level of fluoride found naturally in New Zealand waters is not high enough to prevent tooth decay, so many public water supplies in New Zealand have fluoride added to them.

The optimal amount is around 0.7ppm and 1.0ppm, and ‘topping up’ fluoride levels to this level is recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Many regions around New Zealand have been safely topping up fluoride levels in reticulated drinking-water for more than 60 years. Currently, approximately 51 percent of New Zealanders receive fluoridated drinking-water. Water fluoridation is monitored to make sure that the levels stay within the recommended range. 

Further information on water fluoridation is available from the Ministry of Health.

Under the Health Amendment Act the Director-General of Health can now make directions for local authorities to add fluoride to some or all of their water supplies.

The National Public Health Service (NPHS) - Northern Region fully supports:

  • water fluoridation continuing in currently fluoridated areas, and
  • the introduction of water fluoridation in non-fluoridated areas, where possible.

In 2022 a direction was issued to start adding flouride to water to:

  • Auckland Council to the Onehunga and Waiuku supplies
  • Far North District Council to the Kaitaia and Kerikeri supplies
  • Whangārei District Council to the Bream Bay and Whangārei supplies

Some communities and population groups in Aotearoa have poorer oral health outcomes than others. New Zealand has high rates of preventable tooth decay, particularly among Māori and Pacific people, and those in vulnerable communities. 

The benefits of community water fluoridation are broadly spread, but are therefore greater for Māori, Pacific people, and those living in deprived communities. 

  • Water fluoridation is the only free dental health intervention for adults, and it provides powerful protection against tooth decay at recommended safe levels.
  • Fluoridating water also makes it easy for all children to have stronger, healthier teeth.

We have a commitment under legislation to improve, promote and protect the health of the people of the Northern region. Fluoride is proven to help build strong, healthy teeth. As such, it is our role to support its use and provide the public with information about its benefits.  


Last updated 27.7.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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