January 25th, 2014 marks the anniversary of fluoridation being introduced to the public water systems in the United States. It was enacted in an effort to help reduce dental issues such as cavities and other tooth decay. However, nearly 70 years into the program, the most ringing endorsement this particular program can seem to garner is neutrality.
Benefits of Fluoride for Teeth
There is evidence that fluoride treatment for the teeth is beneficial. Fluoride helps to harden the outer layers of the teeth, which should help prevent tooth decay.
The one component in common between countries in which tooth decay has decreased in the last few decades has been the common use of fluoride toothpaste, for instance. However, countries with decreased tooth decay are mostly in the EU, where use of water fluoridation has stopped.
Harmful Effects of Fluoride
Although fluoride makes the outer layers of teeth harder, there seems to be some evidence that it also makes it more brittle. This may mean that although tooth decay is slightly less common, it would also tend to be more severe when it does occur.
The main side effect that has been proven in terms of dental health, is dental fluorosis, which is a discoloration of the teeth; hardly a major danger to public health.
There have been many other claims to damaging effects, but none have to date been proven conclusively.
Then What’s the Big Deal?
The CDC reports that some 60% of adolescents have ingested sufficient fluoride to produce dental fluorosis, yet 51% still have cavities.
The state with the highest rate of fluoridation – Kentucky, with a 100% fluoridation rate – is also the state with the highest percentage of toothless persons, a massive 13%, compared to the 6% national average. Hawai and Utah both have low fluoridation rates, yet they have the lowest rate of tooth loss.
In Oregon, in fluoridated areas, 52% of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders had one or more cavities, while in the non-fluoridated city of Portland, Oregon that rate was 48%.
There are many, many more such statistics available. Overall, the numbers indicate that while fluoridation may not be doing significant harm, it doesn’t seem to helping, either.
According to a press release on January 25th, attorney Paul Beeber, president of New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF), claims that, "Science and government reports prove that . . . fluoridation is not the model success it has been claimed to be."
The fluoridation of the public water systems is fairly expensive for the tax payers. With instances of tooth decay on the rise, instead of decreasing, and those instances occurring earlier and tending to be more severe, many argue that it is a waste of money that would be better put to use in other ways to more effectively improve dental health.