Since the 1950s, fluoride use has been touted as one of the great public health victories in the United States. Public water fluoridation is promoted throughout the country as an important measure to combat tooth decay and fluoride is the only chemical added to water for purposes of medication. But why has 97% of Western Europe chosen fluoride-free water?
This issue has a lot talk around it and we encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself. It is important that you question what you read and hear and be certain that any claim made is sound.
A good example of this, and a possible reason that false information gets promoted, can be illustrated by a very plausibly common scenario. A dentist using and promoting the use of fluoride sees hundreds of patients per month in his practice and he sees a high percentage of them with healthy teeth. He could very easily attribute this to the use of fluoride. But is that right to do so? Let’s say our good dentist has his practice in an affluent neighborhood. By scientific study, people who have a higher socioeconomic bracket are people who are eating better and so they have better teeth because of a better diet. So was it the fluoride?
There are, in fact, some studies suggesting benefit, but if you combine them all together, where there seemed to be a benefit, because of abuse and misunderstanding in the real world, there really isn’t. This is in part because we’re ingesting far too much fluoride.
Once fluoride became accepted as wonderful, we started putting it in toothpaste and of course there are the pesticides, the dental topical treatment, the fluoride varnishes in the medical products, and Teflon pans and much more. It has become a case of overindulgence. One might liken it to alcohol. There are many signs that a little bit of alcohol consumption can be beneficial but most of us know, far too many of us all too well, that there is a limit and when we surpass it, alcohol becomes very harmful.
What About Toothpaste?
Here’s what a label of a big name brand we read recently says: “Keep out of the reach of children under six years of age.” Well, that sounds pretty reasonable and it cuts down on big messy clean-ups too. The label went on, “Adults, apply a pea-sized amount” and “Contact poison control center if you swallow.”
If people really used a pea-sized amount, one tube of toothpaste should actually last you several years! That’s how little you should use to remain within safe limits.
According to the research literature, you should brush with no more than one-quarter of a milligram of fluoride, and call Poison Control if you swallow that amount. But wait! Try to recall the last toothpaste ad you saw. It showed a big, long swirl of toothpaste, didn’t it? It wasn’t a pea-sized amount. Have you ever known anyone to use a pea-sized amount? What’s going on here?
It looks like we are getting much more; maybe two-three times more than what we were when they started fluoridation.
And What About Fluoridation of the Water System?
Can this really be a smart choice? Isn’t there a big flaw in that strategy? We could likely get 10 random people together and 3 or 4 of them would only be drinking a few glasses of water per day while 1 or 2 of them might actually be drinking as much as a gallon per day. Yikes! That’s a huge difference in the dosage amount of fluoride that they are getting. Thank goodness for the trend for drinking better quality bottled and filtered water, but do you see the inherent problem with the fluoridation strategy? Not everyone gets a safe dose.
What Is the Actual Harm?
- As of February 2015, there are 43 studies associating fluoride exposure with reduced IQ in children.
- This same chemical is the active ingredient in many pesticides and rodenticides.
- Use of fluoride toothpaste during childhood is a major risk factor for dental fluorosis, particularly for children who brush before the age of three and who live in areas with fluoridated water.
- Excessive exposure to fluoride may cause skeletal fluorosis – a condition easily confused with arthritis or osteoarthritis.
- Ingestion of fluoride may lead to osteomalacia – a condition in which the bone is not well mineralized.
- Although research suggests adult-strength fluoride toothpaste can reduce tooth decay, this potential benefit comes with the risk of disfigured teeth.
- Just one 1 gram of fluoride toothpaste (a full strip of paste on a regular-sized brush) is sufficient to cause acute fluoride toxicity in two-year old child (e.g., nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea).
- In 2009, U.S. poison control centers received over 25,000 calls related to excessive ingestion of fluoride toothpaste, with over 378 users requiring emergency room treatment.
In essence, there may be some minor benefit up to a certain point of usage and even that is highly debatable. The bottom line is that the drawbacks and health risks begin to far outweigh any benefit from using fluoride.
As dental professionals, it becomes a question, then, of “Can we obtain the benefits of and eliminate the harms of fluoride by employing other means for treatment?” Our answer is “Yes!”