Fluoride debate rages on
In light of the recent news that residents in a Canadian town have voted in favour of stopping the fluoridation of water supplies, the debate surrounding fluoridation has become increasingly fervent.
For many years dental organisations, such as The British Dental Health Foundation, have promoted fluoride as a means of reducing decay; according to the BDHF, water fluoridation reduces decay by between 40 and 60 percent. Most areas of the UK do not have sufficient quantities of fluoride in the water to benefit the teeth. However, most toothpaste contains fluoride and this is the way the majority of people get the recommended amount of fluoride. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association have also reported that fluoridated water supplies are a cost-effective means of reducing cavities and their research suggests a reduction of between 35 and 60 percent.
Researchers, including Michael Easley from the National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Ariel Thompson a former researcher from the National Institute of Health, have stressed the importance of fluoridating water supplies and quoted research studies which have proven that rates of decay are lower in communities where the water supply is fluoridated.
In some areas, fluoride is added to the water supply and this has become a contentious issue, as many people feel they should have the right to choose whether or not they take fluoride into their bodies. Many believe that fluoride is a form of poison, which is potentially dangerous and can contribute to health issues, including thyroid problems and an increased risk of cancer. Warnings on tubes of toothpaste have further cemented people’s opinion, as toothpaste tubes warn against the ingestion of the product and advise people who do swallow toothpaste to seek medical attention.
While the majority of dentists and public health officials promote fluoride, there is an increasingly strong resistance to fluoridation and many communities are starting to vote against fluoridated water supplies. In contrast to the research quoted by large dental organisations, campaigners are highlighting studies that have found fluoridated water supplies to be ineffective when it comes to preventing cavities. Studies, such as the one conducted by John Featherstone, a cavity researcher at the University of California, suggests that fluoride is only effective in the prevention of cavities when it is applied topically, meaning that people can protect their teeth by using toothpaste, if indeed, if they wish to use fluoride. Reports also suggest that some people are allergic or highly sensitive to fluoride, in which case adding fluoride to community water supplies may be deemed unjust and potentially harmful.
Many anti-fluoride campaigners are angry that the focus of the fluoride debate is on oral health, rather than general health. Research by Hileman has suggested that fluoride can contribute to chronic insomnia, while studies carried out by Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield have suggested a strong link between fluoridation and thyroid problems.
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