I watched a Phoenix City Council subcommittee this month decide to spend $582,000 a year to keep adding fluoride to its tap water in an effort to reduce cavities.
Scientific studies in the past few years make it clear that all of us are consuming too much fluoride. It’s in everything made with tap water — bread, beer, rice, soda, juice, cereal and even vegetables.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association agree that infants less than six months of age should receive no fluoride. Phoenix council members seemed unconcerned that parents making baby formula cannot avoid fluoride when it is in the tap water. Carbon filters don’t remove it.
As former National Institutes of Health scientist James B. Patrick told Congress, “It is a scientific disgrace that a well-organized lobby of the American Dental Association ever managed to stampede American legislators into ignoring the highly technical but very cogent objection to fluoridations.”
The Nobel and Pasteur institutes have rejected fluoridation; Sweden, France and most of Europe remain unfluoridated. The Environmental Protection Agency’s scientists, through their union, came out against fluoridation. The CDC admits “there are no randomized, double-blind, controlled trials of water fluoridation.” The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology reports that “any honest appraisal of the risks and benefits of water fluoridation must end with the conclusion that it must be stopped.” The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has come out against fluoridation.
What fluoride supporters and opponents usually agree on is that fluoridation alone won’t solve dental problems. In that context, fluoridation is a controversial and inefficient Band-Aid on a much larger problem.
Americans are fluoride-overdosed and dentist-deficient. Many medical-insurance plans do not include dental coverage, and many dentists do not take Medicaid. In about half the states, Medicaid now covers dental care only for pain relief and emergencies, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
Dental associations have fought efforts to let mid-level providers called dental therapists do common procedures like filling cavities. In doctors’ offices, for example, nurses serve as mid-level providers and it keeps health-care costs down. Only Alaska and Minnesota allow dental therapists.
People on both sides of the fluoride debate also usually agree that parents must stress proper dental hygiene and stop giving their children drinks loaded with sugar. Bacteria in the mouth feed on that sugar, and the stage is set for cavities to set in.
The American Heart Association recently released new guidelines for sugar consumption in an effort to give people an idea of what a healthy daily sugar intake really is. The AHA found children as young as 1 to 3 years old already surpass the daily recommendations, and typically consume around 12 teaspoons of sugar a day — much more than the recommended 4 teaspoons.
The dental journals have been telling us for 25 years that 84 percent of cavities occur in the groves of the molars, and while “fluorides cannot be expected appreciably to reduce our incidence of caries on these surfaces, sealants can.” Where is the push for sealants and dental-education programs?