A new documentary well worth your time and attention, from one of America’s leading experts on fluoride and fluoridation:
A new documentary well worth your time and attention, from one of America’s leading experts on fluoride and fluoridation:
If you keep up with developments on the fluoridation front, you’re likely aware that Portland, Oregon’s City Council opted for it, despite vocal opposition. Anticipating such an outcome, citizen activists had already mobilized to put fluoridation on the ballot, and it’s likely they succeeded.
According to the Salem Statesman Journal, Clean Water Portland submitted more than double the signatures needed – more than 43,000 total – and a day before deadline, too!
If the petitions are certified, the City Council could choose to put the issue before voters next year. Otherwise, the election would be in May 2014.
It’s hard to imagine the council would put it to ballot any sooner than necessary, especially in light of recent news that its members met with pro-fluoride lobbyists yet failed to disclose those meetings as required.
Promoted by then-Commissioner [now Mayor] Sam Adams beginning in 2005, the lobbying and reporting rules are supposed to preserve integrity in city decision-making. The requirements affect both lobbyists and city officials and are meant to reveal who attempts to influence city leaders – and on what topic.
Upstream Public Health is behind the push to add fluoride to Portland drinking water. But its plan has since been challenged through a referendum effort that may block the City Council’s Sept. 12 unanimous approval.
According to a recently filed disclosure, lobbyists reported meeting with Commissioners Randy Leonard on July 26, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish on Aug. 2, Amanda Fritz on Aug. 6 and Mayor Adams on Aug. 27 to push for fluoride in public drinking water.
But those same city officials –who are required to publicly post their calendars on a quarterly basis – either didn’t disclose the meetings about fluoride or left a vague subject heading. Adams and Leonard say they weren’t actually present at the meetings.
Regardless of fluoride’s potential role dental health, giving it to everyone via a necessity such as drinking water whether they need it or not is, as we noted previously , ethically dubious at best. As Dr. Paul Connett has asked, “What other drug have we ever delivered through the public water supply?”
None. And for obvious reasons: 1) You cannot control the dose, 2) You cannot control who gets it, and 3) It violates the individual’s right to informed consent to medicine.
Fortunately, more people become informed every day and choose to take a stand for their right to choose. And education is what Clean Water Portland is focused on now.
One teaching tool is the powerful documentary An Inconvenient Tooth, which was released at Portland City Hall just about a week before the council vote – and which you can watch in its entirety below.
Learn more about Clean Water Portland.
Fluoridation is an “unacceptable risk,” says public health professor Niyi Awofeso in the journal Public Health Ethics, August 2012. “There is insufficient ethical justification for artificial water fluoridation.”
Awofeso, a university professor in Australia, who has published over 70 peer-reviewed academic papers in respected journals, goes on to discuss how:
It would appear that the effectiveness of artificial water fluoridation in the 21st century is at best questionable, given its fixed-dose medication approach, quality of fluoride used and its adverse impact on calcium metabolism and largely insignificant differences in dental caries experience between areas with artificial water fluoridation and those without.
Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns of the public with regards to the ethics of fluoridation, pro-fluoridation activists dismiss anti-water fluoridation advocates as misinformed trouble makers intent on undermining public health.
Awofeso speculates that pro-fluoridation advocacy groups won’t concede “victory” to opposing groups, who they deride as ignorant, to save face or that it’s the “general inertia with policy disinvestment.”
Despite assurances that artificial water fluoridation chemicals, hydrofluosilicic acid, act the same as naturally occurring calcium fluoride, Awofesco explains that calcium fluoride does not inhibit a tooth’s calcium absorption but fluosilicic acid does “thus annulling the dental caries prevention effects of water fluoridated with fluosilicic acid.”
The increasing prominence of anti-water fluoridation groups globally, greater appreciation of natural and artificial fluoride sources and likely dangers of excessive fluoride consumption among some population(s) necessitate(s) a thorough analysis of the merits of water fluoridation.
As fluoride expert Dr. Paul Connett states,
What other drug have we ever delivered through the public water supply? None. And for obvious reasons: 1) You cannot control the dose, 2) You cannot control who gets it, and 3) It violates the individual’s right to informed consent to medicine.
The abstract of Awofeso’s paper, “Ethics of Artificial Water Fluoridation in Australia,” is available here.
Adapted from a press release by FAN
Image by tankgirls, via Flickr
Two news items this week on a couple of dental issues familiar to you regular readers:
Last year, some important new research showed that prolonged exposure to fluoride can harm children’s developing brains and nervous systems. A new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives – a journal of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – supports these earlier findings.
The research involved “a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to investigate the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.” Through their analysis of 27 such studies, the authors found that “children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low fluoride areas.” According to the press release from the Fluoride Action Network,
Water was the only fluoride source in the studies reviewed and was based on high water fluoride levels. However, they point out research by Ding (2011) suggested that low water fluoride levels had significant negative associations with children’s intelligence.
Choi et al. write, “Although fluoride may cause neurotoxicity in animal models and acute fluoride poisoning causes neurotoxicity in adults, very little is known of its effects on children’s neurodevelopment.” They recommend more brain/fluoride research on children and at individual-level doses.
“It’s senseless to keep subjecting our children to this ongoing fluoridation experiment to satisfy the political agenda of special-interest groups,” says attorney Paul Beeber, NYSCOF President. “Even if fluoridation reduced cavities, is tooth health more important than brain health? It’s time to put politics aside and stop artificial fluoridation everywhere,” says Beeber.
* * *
Choi’s team writes, “Fluoride readily crosses the placenta. Fluoride exposure to the developing brain, which is much more susceptible to injury caused by toxicants than is the mature brain, may possibly lead to damage of a permanent nature.”
You can access the study here.
That’s the recommendation of a new European Commission report, and considering that 1/3 of EU member states have already phased out, significantly reduced or strengthened restrictions on amalgam use, it seems the inevitable next step forward.
Interestingly, the recommendation isn’t motivated by the evidence of amalgam’s harm to human health. In fact, the Commission accepts the line that there is “no scientific consensus” about amalgam; thus, their policy is concerned with reduction of mercury in the environment, much of which comes from mercury’s use in dentistry. (Yes, there is lack of “consensus” insofar as the dental establishment dismisses the science showing harm, thereby creating a “controversy.”)
According to Dr. Bicuspid, the report noted that
dental amalgam is one of the main remaining uses of mercury in the EU…. In 2007, dental amalgam was the second largest mercury use in the EU after chlor-alkali production.
Approximately 45 tons of mercury from EU dental practices end up in chairside effluents each year, only a part of which is captured and treated as hazardous waste in compliance with EU legislation, according to BIOS [Bio Intelligence Service, author of the report].
“Estimates developed in this study suggest that dental amalgam is a significant contributor to overall EU environmental emissions of mercury from human activities,” they wrote.
The article also mentions some of the reasons why more countries have yet to ban amalgam, from a lack of patient education to the need for many dentists to get more training in placing composites; from the higher short term cost of composite fillings to some dentists’ belief in the mechanical superiority of of mercury amalgam. And all these are, in fact, legitimate concerns that will need to be addressed. Fortunately, there’s the good model of Norway, which we recently told your about, as well as useful research showing that amalgam is the more expensive material in the long run.
You can read more about the proposed phase-out here.
There’s an interesting double standard in medicine – dental and otherwise. Conventional practitioners can and do promote all sorts of treatments that haven’t been empirically proven or that work in ways we don’t yet understand. At the same time, many insist that “alternative medicine” isn’t valid because many of its treatments aren’t yet proven or understood. Yet when proof is provided, the tendency is to ignore it, discount it or move the goal-posts, holding traditional and natural healing practices to a higher standard than they hold their own. If we say there’s only one kind of medicine – that which works – then shouldn’t all of its premises and practices be held to the same standard?
Science is not a body of knowledge but a process – a way of understanding the world through what can be observed, measured and tested. The tools of science are also always evolving, letting us see more – or more precisely – than before. What can’t be proven in one era may be proved in another as knowledge and technology evolve. What seems like magic to one generation may come to seem common sense to later ones.
For decades now, conventional dentistry has put a large store of faith in fluoride. Fluoride toothpaste, fluoride supplements and fluoridated water have all been touted as important factors in preventing tooth decay. But research has helped our understanding evolve. We know now that ingested fluoride does little to prevent tooth decay yet contributes to a host of physical illnesses. We also see evidence that fluoride supplements may not be effective for children.
But what about fluoride in toothpaste? A new study published in Langmuir, the journal of the American Chemical Society, raises some questions.
In a study that the authors describe as lending credence to the idiom, “by the skin of your teeth,” scientists are reporting that the protective shield fluoride forms on teeth is up to 100 times thinner than previously believed. It raises questions about how this renowned cavity-fighter really works and could lead to better ways of protecting teeth from decay, the scientists suggest….
Scientists long have known that fluoride makes enamel — the hard white substance covering the surface of teeth — more resistant to decay. Some thought that fluoride simply changed the main mineral in enamel, hydroxyapatite, into a more-decay resistant material called fluorapatite.
The new research found that the fluorapatite layer formed in this way is only 6 nanometers thick. It would take almost 10,000 such layers to span the width of a human hair. That’s at least 10 times thinner than previous studies indicated. The scientists question whether a layer so thin, which is quickly worn away by ordinary chewing, really can shield teeth from decay, or whether fluoride has some other unrecognized effect on tooth enamel.
We might also ask, is it really the fluoride at all? For toothpaste really isn’t the biggest factor when it comes to good oral hygiene – which isn’t to say that it has no role. Its main role is to act as a mild abrasive to help break up the biofilm (plaque) that forms on your teeth between cleanings. (Toothpastes that contain elements such as antimicrobials play a dual role in supporting oral health, but their main function is still as an abrasive.) More important are things like brushing regularly and well, flossing and/or using a proxy brush – both of which have a much bigger impact on oral health than brushing alone.
As a dentist, I do not use fluoride, nor do I recommend it to my patients. For hygiene products I do recommend, click here.
Image by alles-schlumpf, via Flickr
Conventional wisdom has it that fluoride prevents caries (cavities), and, as with many things, a lot of people tend to think that more is better. So dentists give fluoride treatments and supplements. Cities fluoridate public water supplies. This is sensible insurance, we’re told; good, preventive medicine.
No doubt the intentions of fluoride proponents are good, but you know what they say about good intentions. And the adage bears even more truth when those good intentions ignore hard facts, starting with the reality that evidence in support of fluoride supplementation is a little sketchy.
In 2008, JADA – the official journal of the fluoride-advocating American Dental Association – published “Fluoride, Supplements, Dental Caries and Fluorosis,” a broad review of the scientific research on whether fluoride supplements actually help prevent cavities. While the authors did find some evidence of their doing so in older children, they concluded that the evidence was “weak and inconsistent” for their preventing caries in children under six years old. They also found that “mild-to-moderate dental fluorosis is a significant side effect.”
Fluorosis is what happens when a person gets too much fluoride. In its mildest form, we see the teeth marked by white streaks or flecks. In more severe forms, we see brown and black staining of the teeth, along with pitting and cracking of the teeth.
Meanwhile, water fluoridation doesn’t appear to prevent caries at all. This is borne out in report after report on outcomes in communities with fluoridated water. A recent one out of New Zealand found that children in non-fluoridated communities actually had 1% fewer cavities than children in communities with fluoridated water. And yet the Ministry of Health continues to recommend fluoridation!
The truth is, fluoride is just not necessary to prevent caries. What does help? Regular flossing and brushing – with any kind of toothpaste or even none at all. Eating a low-sugar, nutritionally-dense diet based on whole foods. Regular dental visits. Habits like these make a much more positive impact.
For the other important thing to remember about fluoride is this: not only is it ineffective and unnecessary; it’s also a poison that can damage many different organs and structures in the human body.
When you weigh the risk against its negligible benefits, fluoride hardly seems a good solution to the problem of tooth decay.