Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fluoride: Poison or Miracle?

So, alright.  When I was a child, fluoride was touted as practically a miracle.  We were encouraged to brush our teeth - at least twice a day - with a fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay.  Fluoride was added to our water supply to help, as well. This was a good thing.

Now?  Well, now I hear folks saying that fluoride is poison!  Some European nations have banned adding fluoride to water supplies! We are told that we need to stop fluoridating our water and use toothpaste that doesn't contain fluoride because fluoride is bad for us!

Of course, this makes me want to find out more about the facts of the controversy so I can decide what I think about it.

Let's start at the beginning. In the early 1900s, dental caries (a.k.a. tooth decay) was extremely common here in the US. There really was no effective treatment other than eventual extraction of the decaying teeth. It was uncommon for a person to reach old age with the majority of their teeth intact.

The short story is that dentists who were based in certain areas of the US noticed that some people in those regions had teeth that were mottled but that these teeth seemed to be resistant to tooth decay.  To make a long story short, it was eventually discovered that the water in these areas had a higher level of naturally occurring fluoride and that this was the reason behind the benefit. Studies were done and it was decided that a certain level of fluoride in water supplies (no higher that 4 ppm) provided the benefit of decay resistance without causing the mottled teeth.  Over time, adjusting the fluoridation level of municipal water supplies became commonplace.

In the 1950s, the first widespread objection to fluoridated water began.  Groups were concerned that it was responsible for an increased risk of cancer, Down's syndrome, heart disease, lowered intelligence, Alzheimer Disease and/or other medical conditions. Many studies have been done over the years and those, as well as studies as recent as 1993, have shown no relation between fluoridated water and these health conditions.

Now, too much fluoride can be toxic and this is where the problems arise.  Drinking over-fluoridated water over years can result in skeletal and dental fluorosis which can result in weakened bones and teeth.  Some people take the argument that since this is something that could happen, we shouldn't take the risk.  That seems to be the argument of the European countries who have forbidden the addition to their water supplies.

Many of the objections seem to be over the range of allowable fluoride in the water and whether that amount is the right amount. Other concerns are the ability of your water supplier to properly monitor the level in the water released to the public and whether there is an acceptable degree of government oversight.

The vast majority of scientific evidence seems to support the adjustment of fluoride in our water to no higher than 4 ppm. Studies seem to suggest that this level will not cause any adverse health conditions.  In order for a person to consume enough fluoride to cause fluorosis, his or her local water supplier would have to exceed the accepted safe level for years and I don't think this is likely.

In conclusion, I think that it is beneficial to add fluoride to our water and I support it.  Your opinion may differ but you should be sure that your reasons are based on facts and not hype.  There is plenty of research available on the subject.

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Information for this post were found in the following websites
National Research Council
CDC
Quackwatch
Discovery - Fit and Health

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