So by this stage I bet you’re wondering what fluoride is! Either that or you’ve just landed here from twitter at exactly the right moment….
Fluoride is actually represented in a collection of simple chemicals (fluorides) naturally occurring in all bodies of water.
Evidence for fluoridation stems from research by Dean et al (1942) who showed low doses of fluoride protect against tooth decay. The fluoride concentration of samples was no greater than 2 ppm and most fluoridation programs operate to 1 ppm. To put this into perspective two foods naturally concentrated with fluoride, tea (1-2 ppm) and seafood (1-3ppm) can have more fluoride than fluoridated water. Whereas vegetables can also have notable fluoride content, this may not be independent of the area having a fluoridation system in place.
Fluoride stops tooth decay by strengthening the surface of teeth during childhood when the second set of teeth are still inside the gums and by preventing the bacterial growth inside the mouth, allowing recovery of weak points.
It is true that care should be taken in the first eight years of life to not over-consume fluoride as the Enamel can be damaged causing permanent mottling of teeth. While most toothpastes contain up to 1000ppm, there are newer child-friendly products aimed at children who commonly over-use tooth pastes. These often have a limit of 400ppm fluoride.
Keep in mind that non-fluoridated bottled water is responsible for 50% of tooth decay in 6yos; there is a place for less fluoridated products and potential users may want to seek advice from a dentist. (For more information regarding fluoride and dental hygiene see the Australian Dental Association Inc. and the British Fluoridation Society including expert opinion on fluoride use.)
In the NSW parliament the opposition introduced a Bill (last year) which would have given control of water fluoridation to the Government. It was hoped this would quash debates in the municipal council chambers of Lismore and Byron Bay Shire, yet the Bill was rejected and the decision to fluoridate still rests with local councils. The QLD parliament seems to have gotten to the same point but from the opposite direction. The previous Labor government under Anna Bligh brought all fluoridation matters under state-control, only to have the incoming Liberal government reverse the decision back to the local level. QLD has had historically low levels of fluoridation but is now on par with other states.
It is interesting that nutritional guidelines be delayed for 40-some years after fluoridation of drinking water commenced in 1945 (US, Michigan), 1954 (NZ, Hastings), and 1953 (AU, Beaconsfield HOBART). US/Canada were first to adopt recommended daily intake guidelines for fluoride in 1997, followed by Europe (2001/2002) then Australia/New Zealand (2005). Despite its benefit authorities have been slow to classify fluoride as an essential nutrient owing to the fact that it isn’t necessary for life. Fluoride does save lives, although indirectly as it prevents tooth decay which can lead to septicaemia / septic shock causing multi-organ failure and death! A less dramatic reason for its acceptance as an essential nutrient could be the great improvement to quality of life when taken as a preventative agent (as is the case when drinking water is treated).
Maybe supporters of water fluoridation need not be so fearful of a dramatic increase in dental caries. This is certainly the picture painted by the UK which has 10% fluoridation and has dental caries rates much lower than previous generations thanks to fluoridated toothpastes and topical treatments offered by dentists. This would require conscious and responsible action by the public to purchase fluoridated tooth pastes and visit their dentist regularly. Oh and people who cannot afford the dentist will be left without the public health safety net that cheap water fluoridation currently provides.
If lobbyists want public justice on issues important to them they need to highlight were the lack of evidence lies and fight for a mandate for scientific clarification. This is a long road and seems beyond the capacity of many entrants to the anti-fluoride camp.
Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime