Bottled water is in the news -- and it's hot! Articles are appearing almost daily in dozens of newspapers and wire services across the country, from the Wall Street Journal to the Birmingham News to the Houston Chronicle. The thrust of the articles: that the lack of fluoride in bottled water is causing a decline in dental health.
What's going on here? Why so many articles all of a sudden? Was a major study released proving the connection? Have teeth been falling out en masse? What's the trigger for this barrage of pro fluoridism?
As it turns out, nothing that dramatic.
It seems we're just witnessing the fallout from a massive PR campaign by America's dentists to reanimate America's fluoridation movement. For example: here's a press release from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry titled Nation's Dentists Get Behind Fluoride Awareness Campaign for Kids. (It's kind of fun to note that this release is sponsored by Dannon's new Fluoride to Go "spring water.") Or check out the pamphlet published by the American Dental Association, Fluoride Facts
(What's the line from the movie, Poltergeist? "They're baaack!")
The merits of the articles aside (and they're pretty minimal), the articles do bring up several important questions.
- Does fluoridation actually prevent tooth decay?
- Is it safe?
- Might something else be responsible?
- What can we do?
Let's take those questions on one at a time.
Does fluoridation actually prevent tooth decay?
One claim is that dental researchers have shown that just introducing fluoride into a previously unfluoridated city's drinking water supply can reduce its inhabitants' rate of tooth decay between 40 and 70 percent. Sounds impressive, until you find that during similar timeframes, dental health improved in nearby communities with unfluoridated water at virtually the same rate -- indicating that the improvement resulted from enhanced dental hygiene, not fluoridation.
Another claim made in a 1990 National Institute of Dental Research epidemiological study declared "The results [of the study] suggest that water fluoridation has played a dominant role in the decline in caries and must continue to be a major prevention methodology." But as Dr. Mercola points out concerning this study on his website:
"The difference in tooth decay was actually found to be 0.6 DMFS (Decayed, Missing, or Filled Surfaces). In other words, the tremendous benefit of fluoridation amounted to about one half of a single tooth surface, out of a total number of tooth surfaces of 128 (less than 0.5% difference). In addition, it is doubtful whether such a small difference is even statistically significant."
Or as New Zealand's former chief dental-health officer, Jon Colquhoun, a one-time proponent of fluoridation, said, "When any unfluoridated area is compared with a fluoridated area with a similar income level, the percentage of children who are free of dental decay is consistently higher in the unfluoridated area." This conclusion has been supported by numerous studies in Europe.
So, does it work? There's no question that since fluoridation began, the incidence of dental caries has gone down significantly in the United States. Score one for water fluoridation! But as we've seen, it's gone down throughout the country--even in areas that don't fluoridate their water! In fact, there is no good statistical evidence that fluoride (either in your water or your toothpaste) makes one iota of difference in terms of dental health. All of the improvement in dental health that we have seen in the United States can easily be attributed to better dental hygiene (brushing and flossing), not fluoridation.
Is it Safe?
Well, to be fair, community water fluoridation is supported by the U.S. Public Health Service (while at the same time, curiously, they push for a reduction in our daily fluoride intake), the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association (while at the same time repeatedly publishing articles in their magazine proving the dangers of fluoride. No one ever said this has to make sense), the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the National Academy of Sciences.
On the other hand, the devastating, toxic effects of fluoride are well documented by mainstream organizations such as:
- Numerous articles have appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association challenging the safety of fluoridation.
- National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences has shown that fluoride causes cancer.
- Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency have come out against fluoridation because they have confirmed that it does not reduce tooth decay and that there is clear evidence that fluoride causes cancer.
- The Pasteur Institute in France and the Nobel Institute in Sweden have caused fluoride to be banned in France and Sweden respectively because the health risks from using fluoride far outweigh any possible benefit.
- Fluoridation is also banned in Belgium, Holland, Chile, and Japan among other countries.
And add to this the health problems associated with fluoride include:
- Destruction of the immune system
- Up to a 39% increase in various cancers--with an astounding 80% increase in rectal cancer
- Genetic changes both in sperm and other cells
- Dramatic increase in heart-related deaths
- Brittle bones
- Chronic fatigue
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Increase in Infant Mortality
- Skin rashes after bathing
- Vision problems--including blindness
- Not to mention mottled teeth
- And it is well established that fluoride is an extremely potent enzyme inhibitor.
And then, of course, there's the aluminum/fluoride connection. New research has revealed that fluoride in drinking water makes the aluminum that we ingest more bioavailable. In the presence of fluoride, more aluminum crosses the blood-brain barrier and is deposited in the brain. As was reported in Brain Research, Vol.7 84:98, the combination of aluminum and fluoride causes the same pathological changes in brain tissue that are found in Alzheimer's patients.
Might something else be responsible?
Sugar - especially the sugar in regular soda - is very sticky and remains on the teeth for a long time. If that's not disturbing enough for you to reach for a toothbrush, consider that the bacteria in plaque use sugar as a raw material to create dextrans (the viscous sticky stuff that makes plaque adhere to the teeth). The dextrans have the property of absorbing more sugar that is then turned into acid by the plaque bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) causing the plaque to remain acidic for twenty minutes or more after each exposure to sugar. That's right; sugar isn't just a treat for you; it's a treat for the bacteria that feed off that same sugar for fuel so that they can eat even more of your tooth enamel.
Let's look at what children are really drinking.
- Between 2002 and 2005 an average of 45% of beverages sold in schools was soda.
- Today even with threats of law suits claiming kids are getting fat due to soda, only 18% (as of 2005) of schools have removed carbonated drinks completely.
- And only half of the nations' schools have increased the selection of healthier beverages in vending machines. Yet even with legislation in place, those changes are not quickly implemented. Last September, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law two bills designed to fight obesity and its side effects. SB 965, the no-soda-in-high-school bill, passed the legislative chambers by 47-28 and 26-11 margins. SB 12, the junk-food ban -- which sets standards for fat, sugar and caloric content on all food sold in schools -- passed with almost identical numbers. Yet neither law takes effect until July 2007, with the soda ban having a second phase to be completed by July 2009.
While there has been a slight decline in school soda sales (about 11 %), this represents a swap from soda to sports drinks of about 7%. Put more simply, a swap from sugar to sugar and acids. Consider that a study by the University of Maryland Dental School found that sports drinks contain acids that stimulate the breakdown of tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Researchers in this study (which is published in the medical journal General Dentistry) soaked teeth in various popular drinks for a period of 14 hours -- an exposure period equivalent to about 13 years' worth of normal beverage consumption. The enamel damage caused by sports drinks was from 3 to 11 times greater than that caused by cola-based drinks. The acid in the drinks causes the pH level in the mouth to drop, which stimulates the life cycle of mouth bacteria that cause cavities.
The bottom line is that the average girl has one ounce of pure sugar and the average boy two ounces of pure sugar every day from sodas. That is nearly 50 pounds of sugar every year from soda. But averages can be deceiving since they fold in children who drink no soda at all and those who drink diet soda that contains no sugar. (And let's not get started on artificial sweeteners. That's a whole other story.)
But there's another way to look at these numbers that's far more frightening. Sugared soda contains just under 1 teaspoon of sugar in every ounce. To put that in perspective, the next time you see a 10-year old bouncing along the sidewalk slurping down a 32 ounce big gulp soda, just know that they are effectively downing a large cup of sugar in each and every drink. How many children do you know who do that daily? What impact do you think that has on their teeth -- more than the fluoride NOT found in bottled water, you think?
What can we do?
Before you jump on the fluoride bandwagon, you might want to consider consuming less sugars, less sodas, and less sports drinks, while at the same time improving your dental hygiene. Yes, that's right, floss daily. Brush after every meal.
And keep in mind that consuming these foods is harming you enough without having to add highly toxic fluoride to the mix to punish your body further.
Oh, and as a final thought, you might want to consider adding Baseline Nutritional's Proteolytic Enzymes taken without food to your daily supplement routine. We have received numerous reports that these enzymes make their way from your blood to your saliva where they dissolve dental plaque and wash away the bacteria that cause dental caries. That's for those of you who like the magic bullet approach...