Not to impugn the citizen who recently submitted a well-intended letter concerning the safety of fluoride in our drinking water, but her letter reminds me of the Will Rogers saying, Its not what we dont know that causes most of the trouble, its what we know that just aint so.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element and trace amounts have been present in natural water supplies for as long as testing has been available. Fluoride exists naturally in our bodies in the form of calcium fluoride and is important for strong healthy bones.
It was a dentist in the early 1900s who discovered a correlation between elevated levels of fluoride in the drinking water, brown stains in teeth, and a reduced incidence of tooth decay. In 1942, a US Public Health Service dentist researched the effects of fluoride and proved that optimal levels of fluoride in the water reduced tooth decay with no damage to enamel.
Any publication that attempts to scare people without scientific support is dangerous, and the writer of the recent letter is the victim of such publications. She states that fluoridation started with Alcoa in 1950, and as I have already mentioned this is contrary to fact and easily verified. Water fluoridation is considered to be one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century and I am proud to know that my colleagues in dentistry spear-headed the effort.
The writer sites a study by H.V and Margaret Smith at the University of Arizona that attributes high concentrations of fluoride to mottled enamel, but the study was conducted in 1931. Science and medicine have come a long way since 1931, when the average life expectancy was 61. She mentions the Swedish biochemist, Theorell, who suggested in the 1950s that fluoride was detrimental. In 1967, he retracted his criticism and embraced the use of fluoride as a benefit to oral health.
She states that countries worldwide have banned fluoride in the public water. Sweden and other parts of Europe did not ban fluoride; they started fluoridation of salt and milk.
Since fluoridation was instituted in the 1950s the average life expectancy has increased by over 10 years. Water fluoridation is recommended by the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Dental Association, and the past five Surgeon Generals. Seventy-four percent of the US population using community water systems receives fluoridated water. The current standard is to add fluoride to the water to achieve a concentration of only one part per million.
No prominent scientist or reputable organizations question the benefits or safety of fluoride. Not one physician I know in Mountain City would agree with removing fluoride from the water supply. They have not noticed any of the negative physical effects listed by the writer. I encourage readers to ask their family doctor.
All five general dentists residing in Johnson County support the fluoridation of our water, and here is the reason. Systemic fluoride has resulted in a 50% reduction in dental decay. Poor children suffer disproportionately more dental decay, and families earning less than $20,000 annually have 10 times more unmet dental needs than children from families earning $50,000 annually. Water fluoridation costs approximately 50 cents per person per year, while one single filling can cost over $100. Only one dentist is currently practicing in the county, we have one of the lowest dentist/patient ratios in the country. Our children are surely deserving of efforts to prevent the scourge of dental disease. We have a problem right here in Mountain City, but its not fluoride, its too much dental disease and not enough dentists.
Dont be confused by scare tactics that emphasize the toxicity of fluoride. Chlorine, vitamin D, table salt, iodine, antibiotics, and even water serve as examples of substances that are harmful in the wrong amounts but of great benefit in the correct amounts.
Stephen B. Jones DMD