Fluoridation Is Bad News
   FIB->Fluoridation->The fluoride argument

   One Essential Fact
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the fluoride debate, we want to communicate one essential thing that's important to remember.

Fluoride is a registered poison.

  1. A substance that causes injury, illness, or death, especially by chemical means.
  2. Something destructive or fatal.
  3. Chemistry & Physics A substance that inhibits another substance or a reaction: a catalyst poison.
Fluoride is certainly capable of causing injury, illness and death and has done so innumerable times around the globe. The question is, at what dose? Well, opinion is split, but here are some official figures:

1 milligram per litrethe so-called therapeutic dose in combatting tooth decay, with the assumption that we drink 1 litre of water per day
1.5 mg/lmaximum permitted level of fluoride in UK tap water
4 mg/lmaximum permitted level of fluoride in US tap water
5 mg/lproposed European limit for bottled water
10-20mg daily over 10-25 yearsthe dose at which bone and skeletal disorders occur
2.5-5 gramslethal dose, exact dosage dependent on body weight

   The Arguments For
Please remember, that this is not about criticism of the dental profession. All parents, would love to have some kind of magic bullet to make tooth decay disappear. Unfortunately, water fluoridation just isn't it. But if you do talk to a representative of public dental health about the subject, you're likely to get something similar to the following set of statements:

  1. "It is an absolute tragedy in this day and age to have young children queuing up to have rotten teeth removed under anaesthetic. Studies have shown that water fluoridation is a safe, proven method of reducing tooth decay and putting the smiles back on our children's faces."

  2. "Since all water contains fluoride, a trace element that is also present in soil, plants, many foods and fresh and sea water, fluoridation is really nothing but a process of adjusting natural levels to the optimum level for protection against tooth decay."

  3. "Water fluoridation has been recognised by the United States' Centre for Disease Control (CDC) as one of the "Ten Greatest Public Health Achievements of the Twentieth Century". Water fluoridation benefits persons of all ages and socio-economic groups. It reduces the inequalities in caries experience based on socio-economic status, and therefore provides the greatest benefit to those who can least afford dental care. Although other products containing fluoride are available, water fluoridation remains the cheapest, most effective and socially equitable measure of achieving a community-wide reduction in dental caries."

  4. "The community dentistry statistics for Bedford show that we have half the tooth decay of unfluoridated Luton."

  5. "In a society where people come together for mutual benefit, it is a question of balancing the personal preferences of some individuals against the common good, arising from the lower levels of tooth decay that fluoridation would bring."

  6. "The relationship between fluoride and tooth decay is complex and probably not yet fully understood. However, it is known that fluoride interferes with the process of tooth decay in at least four ways:

    1. If children ingest sufficient fluoride during the period of enamel development (up to 7 years of age) the fluoride alters the structure of the developing enamel making it more resistant to acid attack. This was originally thought to be the most important mechanism of fluoride; however, with advances in knowledge this is now understood to be the least important mechanism.
    2. When teeth are subjected to alternating demineralisation and remineralisation as described above, the presence of low levels of fluoride in the plaque and saliva both encourages remineralisation and ensures that the enamel crystals that are laid down are of improved quality. In other words, low levels of fluoride in the mouth gradually improve the strength of the tooth enamel and its ability to resist acid attack. This important mechanism was first described in 1966 and means that early patches of decay can be arrested and damaged enamel will 'heal'. This explains the dramatic improvement in dental health since the introduction of fluoride into toothpaste formulations in the mid-1970s.
    3. The third way in which fluoride works is by reducing the ability of the plaque bacteria to produce acid. This is a major factor in the prevention of tooth decay. It results from the ability of the plaque bacteria to concentrate the low levels of fluoride at the tooth surface up to a level which inhibits the function of some enzymes which are essential to the bacteria's ability to produce acid.
    4. A fourth, and probably minor effect of fluoride is that, if sufficient fluoride is ingested during childhood when the teeth are developing, it affects the depth of the fissures (grooves) on the biting surfaces of the teeth. In children who grow up in areas where the drinking water is fluoridated these grooves in the teeth tend to be shallower, thus reducing the ability of plaque to remain undisturbed.

    Dentists say that of the four mechanisms the second - the remineralisation effect - is the most important."

The problem with the above points is that they seem very credible and very persuasive at first glance. So if those are the loudest arguments you hear, then you're left with the impression that Andy Burnham, Labour MP for Leigh, is right when he characterises any opposition as belonging to the "flat earth society". However, when you do begin to examine the opposite side of the argument, the most disturbing thing is the quiet persuasiveness of the science. So let's address all of the points one by one.

>> Next: The arguments against