Fluoride Facts and MythsWater fluoridation is the single most cost-effective way to prevent dental disease. Children in non-fluoridated areas have one-third to one-half more tooth decay than children who drink fluoridated water. Californian’s spend more than $4 billion annually for dental care, and the state Denti-Cal program which provides dental services to the poor and costs taxpayers $600-$700 million annually. That figure does not include the costs of indirect dental and medical costs from cranial-facial pain conditions, injuries, TMJ, trigeminal neuralgia (Bell’s Palsy), birth defects (cleft lip or palate), pharyngeal cancers, etc. This figure also does not count the costs to the state for children missing more than eight million school days because of dental problems (1989 National Health Interview Survey).
The median cost of community based fluoridation is about 72 cents per person per year. This amount is less than having one cavity treated over a person’s lifetime! (A one-surface amalgam filling can cost $90 to $140.) Fluoride applied to the teeth by a dental hygienist or dentist costs $25-$50 per year. Brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste cost about $9 per person a year. As you can see, the latter two ways are much more costly and are not as practical because not everyone goes regularly to a dentist or uses toothpaste with fluoride. Again, it is the most cost-effective way to deliver fluoride to everyone in the community, regardless of age, educational attainment, or income level.
Although the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 733 in 1995, requiring fluoridation for all communities with water systems having at least 25,000 people, Bakersfield does not have fluoride added to the community water supply. Community leaders, who may be as confused and mislead as the general public about fluoride and water fluoridation, continue to vote fluoridating water down. They have also expressed concern regarding the cost of implementing a water fluoridation system.
Like vaccination and chlorination, this is one of the most controversial public issues of our time. Following are some fluoride myths and facts to help dispel the confusion.
Myth: Fluoride is a poison.
Not true. Fluoride is a trace ion important to the development of teeth. It is an all-natural element similar to other common substances like salt, iron, iodine, oxygen, calcium, and vitamins. Many of these substances are good for us in proper amounts, but if they are taken in large amounts, may be harmful, such as Vitamin A. In order to get a lethal dose of fluoride a person would have to drink 50 bathtubs of fluoridated water in a single day!
Myth: Fluoride is only beneficial to children.
Not true. Fluoride helps to repair the early stages of tooth decay in any age group, even before the cavities are big enough to be seen in the mouth through a process called remineralization. For elderly patients who experience root caries (decay at the gumline) fluoride has been found to be effective in decreasing this condition.
If fluoride prevented cavities, why do people who drink fluoridated water or use fluoridated dental products still get cavities?
Fluoride helps to prevent cavities, but it cannot prevent all dental disease (yes, dental decay is a disease process). Good, daily oral hygiene practices, such as effective brushing and flossing, eating well-balanced, nutritional meals, limiting sugar, and smoking cessation are other important factors regarding the presence or absence of decay. Decreased salivary flow due to age or medications (many medications cause dry mouth which can contribute to increased decay rates), radiation treatments, and compromised immune systems are some other examples that can contribute to increased decay rates.
Fluoride has been linked to causing cancer, kidney damage, skeletal fluorosis, genetic damage to chromosomes (such as Down Syndrome), a decrease in fertility, heart disease, osteoporosis and bone fracture, Alzheimer disease, allergic reactions, and accelerates aging.
Not true. There is no scientific evidence to support any these claims. The first studies linking fluoride in the drinking water reducing the amount of cavities was done in the 1930s. Since that time over a hundred studies have been done in many different countries, and they have consistently proved a reduction in tooth decay. However, there has been no scientific, consistent demonstration that optimally fluoridated water in harmful. In fact, generations of people have lived in areas where the water was naturally occurring at levels higher than what is recommended, and the research conducted among these persons have substantiated the safety of drinking fluoride in water.
Over 150 health and science organizations in the U.S. and around the world involved with health issues support water fluoridation, such as the American Dental Association, the American Dental Hygienists Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Public Health Service, the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Health, the International Association for Dental Research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fluoride causes hip fractures in the elderly.
Not true. In fact, a recent study reported by the Dental News Digest stated that fluoride helps to rebuild bone.
Fluoridation is mass medication by the government, and putting it in our drinking water infringes on our freedom of choice.
As stated previously, fluoride is not a medication. It is a naturally occurring chemical compound. It is found everywhere, in the soil, water, air and in plant and animal life, which is why foods contain small amounts of fluoride as well.
As far as infringing on our freedom of choice, I will simply end this with a quote by Michael W. Easley, D.D.S.,M.P.H. from: Forward, p. xiii, Abuse of the Scientific Literature in An Antifluoridation Pamphlet (2nd Ed.). He states: “No recantation of their fraudulent claims could ever repay the millions of American citizens for the pain, suffering, nutritional compromise, economic loss, and social estrangement resulting from the widespread existence of dental disease that could have been prevented if every community water system in the U.S. had been fluoridated during the nearly 55 years in which the process has been available. No amount of civil damages exacted from antifluoridationists could ever reimburse local, state, and federal governments for the millions of dollars spent to repeatedly defend such a well-accepted, scientifically valid public health measure as community water fluoridation in courts and public hearings.”
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