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Pros and Cons of Fluoride

Water fluoridation is considered by many to be a pillar of public health. For several decades, fluoride has been added to water in efforts to prevent tooth decay. This in many areas is accepted as fact, and to not fluoridate water would be an obstruction to public health. However, many are rethinking the safety and success of such measures. Perhaps before any definite decisions are made regarding fluoride, we should investigate what pros and cons exist with water fluoridation.

Fluoridation to water is regarded as a simple measure to improve public health. It is thought that adding fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of teeth, preventing decay, cavities and tooth loss. This measure was endorsed by the American Medical Association in 1951 and by the American Dental Association in 1953 [Source: Coffel]. Questions are now increasing in regards to the safety of such a program. Fluoride is generally assumed to protect tooth enamel. It may also increase bone density, but it does not decrease fracture risk [Source: Banting]. In fact, fluoride may actually weaken the bones [Source: Limeback, Phipps]. Fluoride is also known to cause a cosmetically damaging effect called fluorosis, a staining of the teeth that experts say does not attribute to any physical problems. The National Institutes of Mental Health did suggest that fluoride damaged teeth may cause psychological and behavioral problems [Source: Coffel]. This problem has a significantly higher rate of occurrence if fluoride supplements are used in the first six months of life [Source: Pendrys]. Fluoride may affect dietary allergies and protein digestion and intolerance [Source: Butler]. Fluoride has also been linked to symptoms of stomach pain and indigestion [Source: Gupta]. Unfortunately, this means that many people may be experiencing digestive problems due to fluoride and have no idea what the problem is. This leads to further medication and doctor visits to treat symptoms while the underlying problem persists. Fluoride may also damage joints, connective tissue, the brain and the testicles [Source: Navak, Giachini].

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On the next page, learn about possible dangers of fluoridated water.

Many clinicians share a concern that fluoride may play a role in the all too common symptoms of low thyroid function such as fatigue, weight gain, cold hands and feet, dry skin, irregular bowel function and brain fog. The concern stems from the fact that fluoride comes from the same family of elements as iodine. Iodine is the essential component to thyroid hormone. Is the fluoride upsetting the iodine balance in the body leading to widespread symptoms that we see today?  Is fluoride abundance in our water (and basically all beverages) overriding what many see as iodine deficiency? This area has not been looked at sufficiently to know for sure. Apprehension with fluoride also comes from links of fluoride treatment to cancer [Source: Yiamouyiannis]. Fluoride treatments in male rats are associated with bone cancer. Concerns have also been raised for increased risks to the thyroid and liver.

Water fluoridation also poses some risk because the dosage is assumed to be the same for everyone. Infants and the elderly may be much more susceptible to changes in fluoride levels and should be watched closely [Source: Whitford]. Fluoride levels do not just include drinking water but also will also be affected by soft drinks, juices and soups. A potentially large source of fluoride is toothpaste. Fluoride is added to toothpaste to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride toothpaste should not be swallowed and therefore not used for toddlers or anyone cannot sufficiently spit all of the toothpaste out. There are cases of acute fluoride poisoning from water systems, including side effects up to death [Source: Gessner].

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Unfortunately, the data concerning water fluoridation is considered by many to be subpar at best. There are really no recent double blind studies to know if additional fluoride is worthwhile or not. Even dentists and members of the American Dental Association are now discussing whether water fluoridation is actually helpful [Source: Coffel]. Interestingly, fluoride has been sourced from leftover waste from aluminum and phosphate industries. Fluoride when applied topically can be done and then removed (spit) from the body, posing much less risk to the system than fluoride that is ingested and absorbed throughout.

Any treatment that is added to water to treat the masses should be done with the utmost care. There really exists no medication or supplement that is tolerated by everyone. Aspirin, Tylenol and even a simple B12 vitamin may cause problems with some individuals. When a potential toxicant is added to the water, it will be hard, if not impossible, to track those who are sensitive to the material. If fluoride is helpful to the teeth, it should be applied directly to the teeth. Placing fluoride in the water makes it available to all of the tissues where it really is not wanted, in the rest of bones, the nervous system and the thyroid gland. At least there should be greater research and knowledge of what symptoms to look for with fluoride toxicity in those who are most sensitive. Adding nutrients or drugs to the water supply is a quick way to supply the masses. It also poses the potential to harm many who do not tolerate the given additive.  In this case, the best scenario would be to supply fluoride in the safe, targeted manner that does not harm the rest of the body.

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Sources

  • Coffel, Steve. The Great Fluoride Fight., Garbage, May/June 1992;32-37.
  • Banting, David W.  The Future of Fluoride: An Update One Year After the National Toxicology Program Study. Journal of The American Dental Association, August 1991;122(86-91).
  • Limeback, Hardy, BSc, Ph.D., DDS.  Fluoride Accumulation in Human Teeth and Bones: Is Dose Adjustment Now Required?. Canadian Journal of Public Health, March-April, 1993;84(2):78-81.
  • Phipps, K.R. and Burt, B.A. Water-Borne Fluoride and Cortical Bone Mass: A Comparison of Two Communities. Journal of Dental Research, June 1990;69(6):1256-1260.
  • Butler, J.E., et al, Fluoride: An Adjuvant For Mucosal and Systemic Immunity. Immunology Letters, 1990;26:217-220.
  • Gupta, I.P., et al.  Fluoride as a Possible Etiological Factor in Non-Ulcer Dyspepsia. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 1992;7:355-356.
  • Pendrys, David G. and Katz, Ralph V.  Risk of Enamel Fluorosis Associated With Fluoride Supplementation, Infant Formula and Fluoride Dentifrice Use. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1989;130(6):1199-1208.
  • Yiamouyiannis, John, Ph.D. Update on Fluoride and Cancer. The Townsend Letter For Doctors, December 1990;864-865.
  • Gessner, Bradford D., M.D., et al. Acute Fluoride Poisoning From a Public Water System. New England Journal of Medicine, January 13, 1994;330(2):95-99.
  • Whitford, G.M., The Physiological and Toxicological Characteristics of Fluoride. Journal of Dental Research, February 1990;69(Spec Iss):539-549.
  • Navak B, Roy MM, Das B, Pal A, et al. Health effects of groundwater fluoride contamination. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2009 Apr:47(4):292-5.
  • Giachini M, Pierleoni F. Fluoride Toxicity. Minerva Stomatol. 2004 Apr;53(4):171-7.

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