The idea of water fluoridation was once eyed with so much suspicion that it was dubbed a communist plot.
It makes sense: Imagine if someone today were to suggest that our entire population be fed pharmaceuticals through tap water.
And yet this Big Brother scheme is now commonplace in Canada, with 40 per cent of our population consuming treated water, with or without knowing it.
Many dental professionals, including the Canadian Dental Association, still think it’s the answer to tooth decay.
Where individuals are not motivated or educated enough to care for their own teeth, Big Brother cares for them with fluoridated water, or so the thinking goes.
“Fluoridation of drinking water is still the most economical means of getting the proven protection that fluoride gives to teeth,” says the Canadian Dental Association.
“Where fluoride has been added to municipal water supplies, there has been a marked decline in tooth decay rates. Children need fluoride protection while their teeth are developing. Adults also need it since the possibility of root cavities (tooth decay in the roots of the teeth) increases as they get older.”
But undoing water fluoridation is an idea, which is also gaining momentum.
Most of Europe has said no to drugs in its tap water.
And so did Whitehorse 10 years ago when it decided to take the fluoride out.
Some dentists are complaining that more teeth are rotting as a result.
But others support the evidence that water fluoridation, while it might prevent cavities, is causing a depletion of bones and teeth, among other health problems.
Dr. Arvid Carlsson, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000, said: “I am quite convinced that water fluoridation, in a not-too-distant future, will be consigned to medical history.”
Another physician, Dr. Peter Mansfield, who was on the UK advisory board for a review of fluoridation, expressed his outrage against water fluoridation this way: “No physician in his right senses would prescribe for a person he has never met, whose medical history he does not know, a substance which is intended to create bodily change, with the advice: ‘Take as much as you like, but you will take it for the rest of your life because some children suffer tooth decay.’ It is a preposterous notion.”
One of the most common and obvious problems stemming from too much fluoride is dental fluorosis, a permanent tooth defect caused when young teeth cells are regularly exposed to sodium fluoride.
Pearly whites are, instead, brown; strong choppers are reduced to jagged little fangs.
But ugly teeth isn’t the worst of it.
Water fluoridation has also been connected to thyroid conditions, bone cancer and is said to be extremely harmful to anyone with kidney problems who can’t process the chemical.
Fluoride can damage the developing brain, causing deficits and other problems, according to a review published in the medical journal, The Lancet.
For years, dental professionals have acknowledged that there is no benefit to teeth when fluoride is ingested, and some have warned strongly against ingestion by newborns and young children.
Look at your tube of toothpaste.
If it contains fluoride, which all of the major brands do, it is like to say something like this: “To prevent swallowing, provide adult supervision and use only a pea-sized amount for children under six years.”
And yet governments are handing these same children cupfuls of it daily.
As it turns out, water fluoridation’s benefits to teeth — at any age — have been greatly exaggerated, according to watchdogs like the Fluoride Action Network.
“Even proponents of water fluoridation admit that it is not as effective as it was once claimed to be,” says the organization’s website, fluoridealert.org.
Quoting a review published by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the organization points out: “The magnitude of (fluoridation’s) effect is not large in absolute terms, is often not statistically significant and may not be of clinical significance.”
Western Europe, which has mainly rejected water fluoridation, has the same level of tooth decay as the United States, which is more than 50 per cent fluoridated.
While some public officials in Canada are still pushing for its introduction, more and more citizens are saying no to drugs in their drinking water.
Dryden, Ontario, last month, voted NO to water fluoridation with a majority of 1902 to 292.
Proponents of water fluoridation usually argue that fluoride doses in the public water system are too small to cause harm.
But our fluoride intake can’t be measured based on the tap water and toothpaste we ingest, a fact the Canadian Dental Association acknowledges, yet seems willing to minimize in its single-minded effort to solve tooth decay with tap water.
“Today’s young children are getting fluoride from a variety of sources, including drinking water and toothpaste, as well as foods and beverages that are made with fluoridated water,” says the Canadian Dental Association.
“Children who show signs of dental fluorosis are generally being exposed to more fluoride than is required simply to protect their teeth.”