Tag Archives: public health

Dr. David Kennedy’s Fluoridegate

A new documentary well worth your time and attention, from one of America’s leading experts on fluoride and fluoridation:

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Oral Health & School Performance – Yes, There’s a Connection

The same day that the Pew Chartiable Trust’s latest report on children’s dental health made the news, I happened upon a news item about a heated budget battle in North Carolina.

Since 1967, Guilford County has had a dental hygienist working in its schools. Now the county Health Director has proposed axing that position to save $25,000 per year – a miniscule amount in a budget that runs in the hundreds of millions. One Commissioner – Paul Gibson – passionately argued against the cut, calling the proposal “short-sighted.”

Gibson said having a dental worker in the schools examining kids’ mouths – and drawing parental attention to problems through a letter home – clearly made sense.

“It’s a great service,” Gibson said. “For $25,000, I think it’s well worth having that person stay where she is and go look into people’s mouths.”

Gibson said most of the commissioners were no doubt familiar with the fact that, not long ago, a young boy in Maryland died because he didn’t get care for an abscessed tooth. Gibson said he didn’t want to see something like that happen in Guilford County.

You can read about the Maryland boy, Deamonte Driver, here.

“Short-sighted.” Gibson’s comment brought to mind a study I happened across earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health, “Impact of Poor Oral Health on Children’s School Attendance and Performance.” Analyzing data on more than 2000 students, the research team found that not only were those with poor oral health three times more likely to miss school because of dental pain, they also did worse academically. Those who missed school to get their teeth cleaned and examined, however, showed no drop in performance.

Missing school wasn’t the key. Dental problems were. Thus, the authors concluded,

These findings suggest that improving children’s oral health status may be a vehicle to enhancing their educational experience.

In this light, $25,000 for a school-based hygienist seems a totally reasonable investment.

As for the Pew report? California rated a C, ranking in the bottom half of the nation, as might be expected for a state in which more than half of all kindergarteners have a history of tooth decay (71% of third graders) and one in 5 kids under 12 has never even seen a dentist. While a biological dentist might question some of the measures used in the Pew study – for instance, sealant use and fluoridation – it is clear that we can and need to do better when it comes to kids’ oral health.

Image by B Tal, via Flickr

Note: I’ll be taking a short break from blogging – back to the regular schedule on June 17. – Dr. E

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US Calls for a “Phase-out” of Dental Amalgam in World Mercury Treaty Negotiations

This week, we got another email from Charlie Brown, National Counsel of Consumers for Dental Choice and President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, delivering some excellent news: the US Mercury Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee has called for the phase-out of dental amalgam.

The Committee is part of an international effort to prepare a global legally binding treaty on mercury.

Charlie explains what happened and what it means:

The United States government has announced that it supports a “phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out by all Parties, of mercury amalgam.” This statement – a radical reversal of its former position that “any change toward the use of dental amalgam is likely to result in positive public health outcomes” – is part of the U.S. government’s submission for the upcoming third round of negotiations for the world mercury treaty.

While couched in diplomatic hedging – remember it is still early in the negotiations – this new U.S. position makes three significant breakthroughs for the mercury-free dentistry movement:

  1. The U.S. calls for the phase-out of amalgam ultimately and recommends actions to “phase down” its use immediately….
  2. The U.S. speaks up for protecting children and the unborn from amalgam, recommending that the nations “educat[e] patients and parents in order to protect children and fetuses.”
  3. The U.S. stands up for the human right of every patient and parent to make educated decisions about amalgam.

What does this mean? Our position – advocating the phase-out of amalgam – is now the mainstream because the U.S. government supports it. Who is the outlier now? It’s the pro-mercury faction, represented by the World Dental Federation and the American Dental Association….

We applaud the U.S. government. But tough work lies ahead. For example, we must demonstrate to the world that the available alternatives – such as composites and the adhesive materials used in atraumatic restorative treatment (“ART”) – can cost less than amalgam and will increase access to dental care particularly in developing countries.

For now though, let’s mark this watershed in the mercury-free dentistry movement: the debate has shifted from “whether to end amalgam” to “how to end amalgam.”

You can read and download the full text of the US statement here (PDF).

The next session of negotiations is tentatively scheduled for October 31 – November 4 of this year.

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A Dentist Speaks Out Against Fluoride

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