|Toothpaste for young children is fluoride-free: Safe if swallowed.|
When the fluoridation debate flared in London some time ago a columnist for the local paper, The London Free Press, told all those opposed to give their collective heads a shake. Even though I would not have counted myself among those opposed, I still gave my head a shake. When all settled, I found myself on the other side of the argument.
I'm not terribly frightened by the prospect of drinking fluoridated water. I used it to make my morning coffee without giving a moment's thought to the fluoride in my brew. So, why do I now side with those demanding the cessation of the fluoridation of London's water?
Well, a lot of folk are very concerned and I don't believe in upsetting folk without a good reason. Fluoridation does not seem to be a good reason. For all the talk about the clear, dental health benefits, it is impossible to track down the multitude of studies which supposedly back up the health claims.
If you want fluoride, and I do, brush with the stuff, slosh it about your mouth in your mouthwash, and when done spit it all out. The brief contact of fluoride with your teeth at these times is most certainly of greater benefit to your teeth than the water ingested over the day.
Read what the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has posted on the Web in regards to reducing dental caries through the addition of fluoride to drinking water:
"Current studies of the effectiveness of water fluoridation have design weaknesses and methodological flaws . . . The magnitude of the effect [reduction of dental caries in the population] is not large in absolute terms, is often not statistically significant and may not be of clinical significance. . . . Canadian studies do not provide systematic evidence that water fluoridation is effective in reducing decay in contemporary child populations. The few studies of communities where fluoridation has been withdrawn do not suggest significant increases in dental caries as a result."
Right upfront I will admit to editing the above. But the fact remains that we do not have statistically significant evidence backing up the claim, a claim made even by the Ontario Ministry of Health itself, that "dental decay [rates] are lower in fluoridated than [in] non-fluoridated communities."
And a careful reading of the literature contains warnings for even believers in the value of the topical application of fluoride, folk like me. Under the headline, Acute Toxicity, the ministry warns: "Fluoride products such as toothpaste should be kept out of the reach of children since toxic amounts could be ingested via these sources." Adults are told to use just a pea sized amount and spit it all out when done.
When the ministry admits "the optimal level of 1.0 ppm was chosen, largely on an arbitrary basis . . .", one's confidence in the ministry numbers can waiver. It does not help that in the States the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have lowered the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water to 0.7 ppm. This is much lower than the "arbitrary" Ontario number.
Why did the Yanks lower the recommended level? "Water is now one of several sources of fluoride," they tell us. "Other common sources include dental products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, prescription fluoride supplements, and fluoride applied by dental professionals." They give a lot of the credit for the significant decline in tooth decay in the U.S. over the past several decades to not only fluoridated water but to fluoride in toothpaste.
So why get your neighbour's knickers all in a knot forcing them to drink fluoridated water? Take advantage of all the alternatives and get the stuff out of coffee, tea, soup and everything else made with tap water. This is 2012 and not 1940. The time for adding fluoride to our municipal water may have passed.