For a subject as simple and innocuous as water fluoridation, it makes raising the question of common good against individual rights seem too easy. It has been the subject of countless conspiracy theories throughout the decades, while authorities remain adamant of its oral health benefits to this day (10 percent still have fluoridated water in the UK). The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) even described it as one of the most important public health advances of the 20th century. But, does water fluoridation actually have a place in the 21st?
The theorists of course say no, and dentists are beginning to echo the sentiment.
Points of Entry
Fluoride is good for teeth. Dentists will never let people forget it. But, every solution needs its corresponding manner of application; it would be a waste of potential otherwise. In the case of fluoride-supported oral health, however, drinking from the tap is apparently not the way to go.
Dentists from MiSmile note that fluoride is at its most effective when topically used, i.e. applied through toothpaste and mouthwash. The problem with water fluoridation is that it uses the element as a systemic oral health treatment, i.e. ingested and supplied directly to a child’s pre-eruptive teeth, or so the dentists back then thought.
Studies are now setting the record straight: fluoride works on teeth, not inside them. Water fluoridation is as effective an oral health measure as drinking pure water; only in the latter, people do not have to ingest a toxic element whenever they feel thirsty.
Even the CDC backtracked on their claims at the turn of the century, saying that ‘fluoride prevents dental caries predominately after eruption of the tooth into the mouth, and its actions primarily are topical for both adults and children’. Water fluoridation turns out to be one of the 1900s’ most important public health advances for an entirely different reason — people just had to learn what not to do.
The debunking of water fluoridation’s oral health benefits still does not lend credence to the conspiracy theories of its time. But, even if authorities and their sceptics are not exactly on the same page, at least they are now finally reading the same book.