Fluoride is not only pointless, it’s a health risk

The fluoridation debate is still very much alive in Calgary, where pro-fluoridation advocates have had a field day, citing claims that seemingly support their position. Many of those claims are either misleading or completely incorrect.fluoride hazard

A recent letter in the Calgary Herald signed by 22 dentists, doctors, academics and periodontists claimed, “more than 3,000 peer-reviewed studies demonstrate that fluoridation is effective and support its safety.”fluoride hazard

In fact, not a single properly conducted drug trial (randomized, double-blinded) has ever been conducted on fluoridation. The globally respected Cochrane Collaboration found a meagre 19 valid non-randomized studies, all with weaker designs. Only three of those were conducted since 1975.fluoride hazard


The letter also claimed “fluoride is 26 to 44 per cent effective in reducing cavities.” This is based on old, weak science. At most, the benefit from fluoridation is perhaps one filling saved per person over 40 years.

Calgary city council decided in 2011 to eliminate fluoridation, a decision that was supported by four previous plebiscites.

The move is both a cost-saver and good for children. It would cost Calgarians at least $50 million to fluoridate for 40 years. That’s about $450 in taxes per filling, much more than the cost of a filling. And worse, many children will end up with dental fluorosis (in the U.S., where fluoridation is common, fluorosis in teens has skyrocketed to 58 per cent), a problem that local dentists state can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, the cost of fluoridation far exceeds its claimed benefit.

Fluoridation advocates also claimed fluoride occurs naturally in Calgary water at concentrations of 0.1 to 0.4 parts per million (ppm), and that fluoridation merely entails topping it up to 0.7 ppm. If Calgary’s water supply already contains up to 0.4 ppm naturally, then ‘topping it up to 0.7 ppm’ will do little to prevent cavities, especially when there are so many other proven sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste, dental treatments and inexpensive prescriptions.

Hardy Limieback

These claims are based on research led by Dr. Lindsay McLaren, published in February 2016. But that research was unable to show an effect of fluoridation cessation after 2011 in Calgary. The study itself noted it had many limitations.

Why, then, do some dentists and orthodontists in Calgary claim that things are much worse since fluoridation was discontinued? Such a claim is anecdotal and unscientific, and not all dentists agree with it. Policy should be made not on claims but on properly conducted clinical study.

There are also concerns about fluoride’s effect on IQ.

A study published on Sept. 19, 2017, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, showed pregnant mothers in Mexico, with fluoride consumption at similar levels as pregnant mothers when Calgary was fluoridated, had offspring with significantly lowered IQ. This carefully controlled study raises serious questions about the safety of fluoridation for infants.

Dentists in Alberta – who are not toxicologists – continue to push for fluoridation when nearly all communities in B.C., Quebec and Europe have eliminated the practice. Perhaps citizens and professionals in those jurisdictions know something Calgary dentists don’t.

In fact, more than 4,000 professionals worldwide have publicly called for an end to fluoridation.

Well-intentioned fluoridation proponents say they’re helping children and the poor. Ironically, and sadly, it’s infants, kids, the underprivileged, the chronically ill, elderly and people of colour who are most susceptible to harm from fluoridation.

Medical science has frequently made errors. Medical and dental associations have endorsed smoking, asbestos, lead, BPA, mercury, thalidomide, Vioxx and many others. Just as they were wrong then, they’re wrong again.

Fluoride, after all, is not necessary for any body function, unlike calcium, vitamins B and D, or iodine, which are essential to health, or chlorination, which kills organisms before they reach our bodies.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and create the equivalent of Scotland’s Child Smile program, which has shown spectacular results since 2001 in improving dental health and overall health for their children.

Together we can make a major impact on the well-being of our children without medicating our water.

— Robert C. Dickson, MD, CCFP, FCFP, is a community physician in Calgary and is the founder of Safe Water Calgary (www.safewatercalgary.com)

— Hardy Limeback, PhD, DDS, is the recently retired head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto

fluoridation, fluoride

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone.

They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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  1. Bob Dickson and Hardy Limeback, may be health professionals, but they are part of a very small minority of health care activists, who do not understand or respect the scientific consensus, have provided no legitimate scientific evidence to prove their anti-science opinions, and must “adjust” the evidence so it appears to support their fear-laced propaganda and scare the public into accepting their agenda since they have no evidence to change the scientific consensus.

    Unfortunately Dickson and Limeback have used standard Gish Gallop tactics to dump as many unsupported false claims as possible into a short article. Consequently, only a summary of their misrepresentation of evidence follows. The main fact, however, is that they provide no legitimate scientific evidence which is of sufficient quality or repeatability to change the scientific consensus.

    1) Dickson and Limeback begin the article by claiming, “The fluoridation debate is still very much alive”. In fact, the scientific consensus of relevant experts has concluded that fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure for over 70 years. Fluoridation opponents try to frame their activism as a legitimate debate, but that assumes either that there is a balance of legitimate scientific evidence on both sides (there is not, fluoridation opponents “adjust” the “evidence”) or that the “winner” can be determined by presenting the most persuasive philosophical, political, legal, etc. argument (that is not how scientific issues are resolved).

    2) Using the lack of randomized, double-blind drug trials on fluoridated water as absence of evidence is a misdirection and a lie. According to the 2015 Cochrane Fluoride Review, “However, there has been much debate around the appropriateness of GRADE when applied to public health interventions, particularly for research questions where evidence from randomised controlled trials is never going to be available due to the unfeasibility of conducting such trials. Community water fluoridation is one such area.” Instead of allowing these claims to go unanswered, fluoridation opponents need to be asked how they would create a double-blinded clinical trial that would follow hundreds of individuals for years, control exposure to fluoride ions and monitor/collect all other data that can either increase or decrease the risk of dental decay? This is one of the more egregious examples of disinformation.

    3) The evidence does not support the opinion that “the benefit from fluoridation is perhaps one filling saved per person over 40 years”. However, there are real health risks from dental decay (even in one tooth) and no proven risks from drinking optimally fluoridated water.

    4) The 58% fluorosis value is fabricated, and any dental fluorosis related to drinking optimally fluoridated water does not require any cosmetic repair, so fluoridation only reduces decay rates and results in savings.

    5) The evidence shows that the balance between the benefits of protecting dental enamel from decay and the risk of very mild to mild dental fluorosis is about 1 ppm fluoride ions without other sources of exposure to fluoride ions. In a fluoridated community that “optimal value” is about 0.7 ppm.

    6) The alleged limitations of the study by Dr. McLaren, et al. were all fabricated by fluoridation opponents and adequately addressed and countered. The study confirmed the 3,000+ other peer-reviewed studies mentioned in the Calgary Herald letter.
    7) There are no legitimate concerns that drinking optimally fluoridated water lowers IQ. The 2017 Bashash, et al. Mexican study referenced contained five long paragraphs that described the study limitations, salt not water was the source of fluoride ions and a number of other possible confounding factors were not evaluated. Dr. Angeles Mier Martinez, one of the lead researchers in the 2017 Bashash, et al. study, commented, “As an individual, I am happy to go on the record to say that I continue to support water fluoridation”
    ~> americanfluoridationsociety(dot)org/meir-martinez-comments-on-mexican-study/

    8) Fear sells. Communities have eliminated fluoridation because of fear-mongering tactics that have convinced the public to oppose a beneficial public health program, not legitimate science.

    9) Technically the claim, “In fact, more than 4,000 professionals worldwide have publicly called for an end to fluoridation”, is true. Ironically, however, those values actually prove the outlier status of fluoridation opponents. Based on the numbers, only 378 dentists, 581 physicians and 106 pharmacists have signed the FAN Professionals Statement to End Water Fluoridation by January, 2018. That is less than 0.2% of the 195,722 practicing dentists, about 0.06% of the 926,119 professionally active physicians, and about 0.04%. of the 297,100 practicing pharmacists in the U.S. Worldwide that is less than 0.02% of the 1.8 million practicing dentists, about 0.005% of the 10-15 million practicing physicians and 0.005% of the more than 2 million practicing pharmacists.
    ~> fluoridealert(dot)org/researchers/professionals-statement/

    10) As additional proof of the outlier status of fluoridation opponents, there are no international or national science or health organizations that support the anti-F opinions – only a few marginal groups like the IAOMT, a fringe group of dentists that has increased their bottom line by advocating the removal of durable, long-lasting amalgam fillings by employing the same types of scare tactics used in their campaign against fluoridation – frighten the public into bypassing critical thinking so they will believe your scam. Unfortunately irrational, unjustifiable fear sells a product or idea far more effectively than a careful consideration of all the facts and evidence.
    ~> sciencebasedmedicine(dot)org/dr-david-villarreals-holistic-dentistry-full-of-holes/
    ~> quackwatch(dot)org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/mercury.html
    ~> ncbi(dot)nlm(dot)nih(dot)gov/pmc/articles/PMC3388771/

    11) In contrast, over 100 national and international science and health organizations (and their many thousands of members – experts in their fields) continue to recognize the public health benefit of fluoridation as a safe and effective method to reduce dental decay and resulting health problems?
    ~> ada(dot)org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation/fluoridation-facts/fluoridation-facts-compendium
    ~> ilikemyteeth(dot)org/fluoridation/why-fluoride/

    12) There is no legitimate evidence that proves, “infants, kids, the underprivileged, the chronically ill, elderly and people of colour who are most susceptible to harm from fluoridation.” In fact, the evidence shows that it is precisely those groups that benefits from drinking optimally fluoridated water.

    13) All water treatment methods, disinfection, fluoridation, pH adjustment, corrosion control, and coagulation/flocculation have been implemented to protect and improve the health of citizens who drink the tap water. All water treatment methods protect health differently, and it makes no difference to health if pathogens are killed before entering the body or the teeth are strengthened to resist the effects of decay-causing bacteria.

    14) Fluoridation is only one of the effective methods which can be employed to reduce dental decay in a community. Fluoridation supporters, unlike fluoridation opponents, do not insist that a proven way to reduce dental decay be abandoned because of an irrational, unsupportable paranoia of fluoride ions.

  2. Why isn’t fluoridation working?

    The Journal of the American Dental Association (Dye 2017) reports, “65% of poor 6-8 year-olds and 12-15 year-olds have cavities in their primary and permanent teeth, respectively. More than 40% of children have dental cavities by the time they reach kindergarten. “… there has been little improvement in preventing caries initiation,” said Dye.
    “Childhood tooth decay is the #1 chronic childhood illness in America.”

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