Some believe fluoridation is one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century while others believe it is an insidious chemical undemocratically foisted on the public. Few other issues divide opinion so sharply. Proponents argue that fluoridation, more than anything else, is responsible for the decline in cavities in children, while its opponents claim that fluoride in water has been shown to not only harm teeth but is linked to a variety of health risks, the latest of which is a rare bone cancer in boys. So who’s right?
Many parents oppose the introduction of fluoride in drinking water. They point out that fluoride is an industrial poison and has been introduced into the water supply without any public consultation. Fluoride is consumed by individuals, often without them knowing it, and without their consent.
They argue that if fluoride is so safe, then why are parents advised not to brush their children’s teeth with fluoridated toothpaste and why are they told that if their child swallows more than a pea-sized amount they should seek medical help?
They argue that using fluoridated water when mixing formula can also expose child to more than optimal or safe levels. They point out that the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends formula be mixed with water that is either fluoride-free or contains lower levels of the chemical.
Fluorosis is a condition that alters the appearance of teeth. Young children who are teething are most at risk of this condition when drinking fluoridated water.
The reduction of tooth decay is also nonsense they argue. They point out that in areas of the United States where there is no fluoridation; there is no significant increase in tooth decay. The lowering of tooth decay is because of better hygiene and parent awareness about diet and what causes decay.
Finally, if fluoride is so safe and beneficial then why have countries like Japan, Scotland, Germany, France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Italy chosen not to fluoridate public drinking water?
However, there are organizations and individuals who disagree and refute the above and would point out its benefits.
They argue that Fluorosis is more likely to be caused by fluoridated products such as toothpastes and fluoride supplements rather than by drinking fluoridated tap water.
The ADA states that 15 years of scientific review by the WHO, the U.S. Public Health Service and organizations in Canada, England and Australia have found that fluoridation of public drinking water is beneficial and does no harm.
The ADA also points out that lower socioeconomic groups suffer more from tooth decay and that fluoridation is responsible for the decline of tooth decay in this group.
The debate continues and like issues such as this there is no clear indication either way about whether it is harmful or safe. If you are concerned about the effect of fluoride on your teething child, then you should first check out whether your water supply is fluoridated. If it is then you should only use bottled water for cleaning teeth and in the preparation of milk and food. You should also seek further advice from your family doctor and dentist.