Drink more fluoride

I went to the dentist on Saturday, and after the ritual inspect, scale, clean and brushing advice (for myself and the kids), I was chatting to him about how things had changed in the last generation. I mentioned that by the time I was 10, I had about 10 fillings, a stark contrast to Isaac (with one) and Jeremy (with none). He said that dental care had improved, as had education about brushing, but that he reckoned the main factor was fluoride in the water; that this more than anything else had led to healthier teeth for children.

Apparently even in this day and age, fluoride in the water is is common in Australia and North America, but not elsewhere. Despite the controversy (including some wacky conspiracy theories such as the view that the Masons are doing it for their own purposes), there seems to be general agreement from medical professionals that it’s a good thing.

Mind you, I have a vague feeling that the dentist I used to see as a kid was rather too keen on expensive cars.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

10 replies on “Drink more fluoride”

I am very passionate in my stance on dentists. I can’t understand why they are the only profession in which you are not consulted in any of their decision making. If you had rising damp in your house, someone with expertise in that area would come and have a look and give you the scenarios, of what could be done and the risks about doing nothing. With dentists, it’s never a case of well there’s a bit of a cavity here’s what might happen, there’s no discussion of potential consequences and weighing up of risks, it just “straight back to the front desk to make an appointment to “help finance another expensive car”.
I’m fairly ritualistic about brushing and stuff (but don’t floss). 20 years ago my then dentist said he found a cavity and I needed a filling. Due a chain of events of me forgetting to turn up to said appointment and then him having back surgery, I never ended up having it done. 20 years on my current dentist is quite happy with my teeth. Now I’m 37 and have no fillings (*touch wood*). So I REALLY must have needed that tooth filled.

My son spent 3 years from age 1 to 4 on a farm which only had tank water. 12 months later he had a dental check up and the dentist suddenly looked up and said “has he spent a lot of time in third world countries ?”. My immediate reaction was “WTF? He’s 5!” Seems my son’s lack of exposure to flouride really showed up – no holes but a lack of strength and whiteness. 3 years later and the dentist is now happy – as are we.

Reminds me of that article (in “New Scientist” I think) about how people who drink only posh bottled water are missing out on that tooth-toughening fluoride and ending up with tooth cavities – thus funding their orthodontists’s new Ferrari!

Ironic – isn’t it?

We’ve got a bit of a problem – there’s no fluoride in our mains water supply in Yarra Glen. I’m considering importing bottled water from taps in other suburbs.

An large-scale Australian study shows that drinking non-fluoridated water does not make one more susceptible to tooth decay. See:

Fluoridation began with the old-fashioned belief that ingested fluoride incorporated into children’s developing teeth to resist decay.
Modern science proves that fluoride gets into the tooth enamel by topical means alone. So there’s no good reason to swallow fluoride.

For more info:

Fluoridation 101

Fluoridation News Releases

Tooth Decay Crises in Fluoridated Areas

Fluoride Action Network

New Zealand has a long history of fluoridation too – but NYSCOF is right – most kids get enough topical fluoride from toothpaste these days.

NYSCOF, I would call that a complete misrepresentation of the findings of the study:

CONCLUSIONS: Water fluoridation was found to be related to significantly
reduced caries experience in the majority of AHSs where comparisons could
be made, and to benefit all socio-economic strata of the community.
Water fluoridation should be extended to those areas of NSW that are yet
to benefit from this successful caries preventive public health initiative.

The study found exactly the opposite of what you claim.

Part of the reason other countries, such as India, do not have fluoride added to their water is that they have significant amounts naturally – enough so that skeletal fluorosis is common.

I’m all for fluoridation – as a public health issue, it’s very cost-effective, costing around $1 per person per year, and has minimal side effects. I live in Ballarat, and Central Highlands Water do not add fluoride to the water supply due to community pressure. In a town that already has a dentist shortage and a public dentist waiting list of around two years, it seems counter-productive

I would have to agree with Emma. One of my concerns about moving from Melbourne to Ballarat is that there is no fluoride in the water to protect my children’s teeth from decay. Those vocal minorities opposing fluoridation should put up any evidence they have of any possible dangers…or shut up, and let us get on with looking after our kids’ health.

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