Fluoride wars! For years, controversy has raged about the addition of fluoride to our drinking water. Now the issue is back, due to revelations that the city of Loveland has periodically discontinued fluoridation during mainteinance of the water treatment plant. Dental advocates can relax. Fluoridation is back, at a rate of 0.9 milligrams per liter, up from the previous level of 0.7 mg/L. Of course, the tinfoil-hat crowd has descended en masse upon the city in order to protest the decision. Citing health risks, fluorosis (where teeth become white-spotted, yellow, brown-stained or pitted), and the zombification of America, advocates failed to convince the city that fluoridation should be discontinued. Let us examine the issue. Fluoride is good for your teeth!
Fluoride research had its beginnings in 1901, when a young dental school graduate named Frederick McKay left the East Coast to open a dental practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He determined that mysterious brown stains on the residents’ teeth were caused by an unknown ingredient in the town’s water supply, which had a curious secondary effect of eliminating dental caries (cavities). What this ingredient might be remained a mystery until 1931, when chemist H.V. Churchill discovered that high levels of naturally occuring fluoride were the cause. At first he refused to believe it. “You’ve contaminated the sample!”, he roared at his lab assistant. “Check it again!” Fluoride, however, was indeed the culprit. But what level is safe?
The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that fluoride is non-toxic up to a level of 4.0 mg/L, with fluorosis (originally known as ‘Colorado Brown Stain’) occuring at levels of 2.0 mg/L and above. This means that the city of Loveland would have to increase fluoride levels by 222% before putting anyone at risk. As long as you don’t swallow your fluoride toothpaste, you’ll be fine.
Precious Bodily Fluids
In the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove’, United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, orders the SAC 843rd Bomb Wing to commence an attack flight on the Soviet Union. He cites, as his reason for doing so, the fluoridation of our water supply, calling it “A communist plot to pollute our precious bodily fluids”. He was, of course, barking mad. Before fluoridation (and good dentistry), teeth were a transient and painful affair, belonging mostly to the young. Today, luckily, tying a string between a rotting tooth and a doorknob (and then slamming the door!), is a thing of the past.
Nattering nabobs of negativity like to cite studies from India, Mexico, China, and Iran on the mental health effects of fluoride. Not exactly the absolute cutting-edge of scientific research. But it’s no surprise that second and third world countries are desperate to blame anyone (or anything), other than themselves for their troubles. The truth is, too much of anything can be toxic. People have even died from drinking too much water, a very real condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication). Overexposure to that lucky ‘ol sun? Melanoma. Lots of meat? You’ll end up with cardiovascular disease, like Curly in ‘City Slickers’. “The man ate bacon at every meal. You can’t do that.” Are we really doomed to become a nation of mind-numbed, brown-tooth zombies, intent only on devouring brains, delicious brains? Probably, but it won’t be because of fluoride. Remember, it is always better to base an opinion on facts, rather than emotion!