This is the final post dealing with water fluoridation in my week-long series discussing both sides of the water fluoridation debate.
Hopefully you enjoyed the articles this week. If not, don’t worry! I’ll be back into my regular oral health writing routine next week.
If you missed the two previous articles, each of them explored one side of the water fluoridation debate. You can read them by following the links below:
In this article, I’ll share a few of my own thoughts on the water fluoridation issue.
Where I Stand on Water Fluoridation
I do see valid arguments to both sides, and to be quite honest, I’m torn. I think that the best way to express my feelings on the water fluoridation issue is to talk about two children — first, my son, and then someone else’s son.
My Son and Water Fluoridation
I brush my children’s teeth every night before they go to bed. When I started using fluoride toothpaste with my son, I made sure he spit it out. I feel like my wife and I are in charge of his oral health, and that he wouldn’t have any cavities with or without water fluoridation. With that said, I think that the only thing that would happen to my son as a result of drinking fluoridated water would be mild dental fluorosis.
We get fluoride from a number of sources. I sometimes wonder if water fluoridation will provide enough extra fluoride to push him over the edge and cause his teeth to have the white speckled appearance characteristic of mild dental fluorosis.
Contrast this with the story below.
Another Child and Water Fluoridation
Now, imagine another child who grew up with parents who don’t really care about oral health. We’ll call him Leroy. Leroy’s parents let him eat candy all day and they are too busy to worry about brushing his teeth. Water fluoridation is the only thing that Leroy has working in his favor when it comes to oral health. His parents don’t even take him to the dentist.
In Leroy’s case, water fluoridation could potentially keep his baby teeth in good enough shape that he doesn’t get an infection from a tooth with a large cavity. In this case, water fluoridation is a great thing! The fluoride he receives every day when drinking could keep that little boy from having to go to the hospital due to a dental infection.
Should Both Kids Drink Fluoridated Water?
When you look at my son and Leroy, you can see that some people would benefit greatly from fluoride while other people could end up with enamel fluorosis and be embarrassed because of their teeth.
In an ideal situation, my son wouldn’t have to drink the fluoridated water. In fact, he would probably give his fluoridated water to Leroy so that he could get a double dose of dental protection. Unfortunately, water fluoridation is an all-or-nothing deal. You can’t selectively fluoridate certain people’s water because that would be construed as discrimination.
This problem has led me to a lot of thinking. It made me wonder if water fluoridation is the best way to get fluoride to kids like Leroy.
Is Water Fluoridation the Best Method?
There are alternatives. Switzerland has had some success fluoridating the salt. This would be relatively easy to do. In 1924, Morton started putting iodine in salt. They did this because iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation.
In the book Fluoride in Dentistry, author Ole Fejerskov states, “Water fluoridation reaches everybody, a major advantage in terms of oral health and a problem in terms of social policy for those who dislike the overtones of compulsion. When domestic salt with added fluoride appears along-side non-fluoridated salt on the supermarket shelves, consumers have a choice. This makes fluoridated salt more palatable from the social policy viewpoint, but weakens its caries-preventive impact across the whole population.”
Salt fluoridation does have its drawbacks, which I will discuss in another article, but it is something to think about.
Since we began adding fluoride to water over 60 years ago, a lot has changed. We are now surrounded by toothpastes with fluoride, mouth rinses with fluoride, and floss that is coated in fluoride. Fluoride is even found in many of the packaged foods and drinks we consume. I think we are ingesting too much fluoride. Apparently that is the prevailing opinion, one which brought about the recent recommendations to reduce the amount of fluoride in our drinking water.
As you can see from what I’ve written above, I am both for and against water fluoridation. One might say that although I’m in favor of using fluoride in appropriate doses, I see some definite problems with the mass water fluoridation that we see across much of the country.
Where do you stand? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!