FLUORIDE: HARMFUL OR HELPFUL?
Evidence based dental care in O'Fallon, IL
I’d like to ask you for permission to be truly honest with you regarding a topic that has come to be a source of frustration for dentists; fluoride. Never in the history of teeth has there been a discovery so advantageous to oral health yet consistently and unjustly demonized. Since I entered the dental profession, about every two years we find ourselves having to defend its use. And I know, I, for one, am puzzled as to why. Let’s break the argument down.
Argument #1: Dentists put their patients interests ahead of their own.
Dentistry has to be one of very few occupations on earth that works as hard as we do to eliminate our customers’ need for us. Some would say it’s as if we’re trying to put ourselves out of business. It's really quite a noble mindset, if I do say so myself. Spring Valley Dental Group in particular, wants their customers to know everything we can share about avoiding problems with teeth. We pay our hygienists to spend their entire day sharing every bit of their considerable knowledge, in hopes our customers might need our services less.
When we have occasion to administer in-office fluoride treatments for our patients, we have been using a 5% sodium fluoride varnish. We chose that particular chemical because the testing we trust demonstrates this is a safe concentration that optimizes surface uptake. We gravitate toward the varnish for several reasons. The first is, it's easy for our patients. We paint the varnish on clean teeth as a pasty gel, and because it clings, there are no messy styrofoam trays to juggle or gag on. This gel behaves much like the plaque bacteria or food behaves. It tends to "hang out" in all the same areas, (the gumline and in between teeth), so it's great at treating the areas most threatened. After application, you simply avoid doing things that would remove the varnish for a couple hours. Avoid piping-hot food or drinks, as well as sticky foods. The longer it clings, the more completely it works. There's not much more to it. After two hours, brush any remaining varnish away and go about your business. Easy!
Argument #2: Fluoride has proven safe and effective, time after time.
Measuring and maintaining fluoride levels in our diet is fantastically effective at making teeth more resistant to decay. Humans of all ages have less vulnerability to decay in regions that have embraced this truth. It's as reliable as the rising sun. Fluoride’s effect has been researched, proven, questioned, re-examined and has proven time after time, to be safe and effective.
Reality: Who is the real salesman?
Some patients like to quote “internet authorities”, who rattle on about worries ranging from the absurdity of Fluoride being a Russian mind control agent, to a myriad of organ and tissue damages they claim are caused by fluoride in drinking water. These “authorities” quote data from studies that were designed to provide support for their own businesses. These hucksters always have a product to sell, so that you might “heal yourself naturally” from the damage they claim fluoride causes. It's nonsense designed to sound credible, and move product.
Find a trusted dental professional to break it down for you, if you can’t wade into the literature.
If citizens refuse to read through scientific proofs and reach informed conclusions for themselves, I can understand that. Data presented to prove a point can be dry and hard to get through. Instead, we all tend to find someone who has chewed through that data to produce understanding, and TRUST them to boil it down for the rest of us. So, who do you trust: the internet sensation who wants to sell you a remedy and stands to make money, or an entire group of dental professionals who would profit GREATLY from the removal of fluoride, but recommend it anyway?
My peers and I want to get this right! Believe me when I say, we fluoride advocates are putting our patients’ best interests ahead of our own. Dentists would stand to gain tremendously by the mass withdrawal of fluoride from the water supply, yet we continue to advocate for fluoride. I think that speaks volumes for the profession of dentistry.
Written by Lance P. Martin, DMD
Here is a brief take on the state of affairs by the ADA regarding fluoride:
NBC News (10/17, Chuck) reports on its website that “a small but vocal minority — are disputing long-established science to say that fluoride added to tap water lowers IQ and causes everything from acne to anemia to Alzheimer’s.” According to the story, “The frets over fluoride are reminiscent of the unfounded fear that vaccines cause autism: disproved by science, yet steadfast nonetheless.” In the past five years, “74 cities have voted to remove fluoride from their drinking water.” American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Brittany Seymour said, “There have been literally thousands of studies published in peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate the safety of community water fluoridation,” adding that it is “the single most important public health measure to prevent cavities.” The story notes that this year, there have been 13 votes on fluoridation, and at least three more cities have fluoride referendums on the ballot in November. “The science — the true science — proves its effectiveness over and over again,” said Dr. Julie Watts McKee, the state dental director of the Kentucky Oral Health Program. “It helps people of all ages. It helps the kids better because they have growing teeth and are at a cavity-prone age, but it helps us all.”
For more information about fluoride and the ADA’s advocacy efforts on fluoridation, visit ADA.org/fluoride.
Dental professionals can point their patients to the ADA’s consumer website, MouthHealthy.org/fluoride, for more information. The Journal of the American Dental Association also offers this patient handout, Drink Up! Fluoridated Water Helps Fight Decay.