Fluoridation May Not Prevent Cavities, Scientific Review Shows
BY DOUGLAS MAIN 6/29/15
If you’re like two-thirds of Americans, fluoride is added to your tap water for the purpose of reducing cavities. But the scientific rationale for putting it there may be outdated, and no longer as clear-cut as was once thought.
Water fluoridation, which first began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and expanded nationwide over the years, has always been controversial. Those opposed to the process have argued—and a growing number of studies have suggested—that the chemical may present a number of health risks, for example interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function; two studies in the last few months, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid. Others argue against water fluoridation on ethical grounds, saying the process forces people to consume a substance they may not know is there—or that they’d rather avoid.
One thing the review definitively concluded: Fluoridation causes fluorosis.
This condition occurs when fluoride interferes with the cells that produce enamel, creating white flecks on the teeth. On average, about 12 percent of people in fluoridated areas have fluorosis bad enough that it qualifies as an “aesthetic concern,” according to the review. According to Sheldon, that’s a “huge number.” A total of 40 percent of people in fluoridated areas have some level of fluorosis, though the majority of these cases are likely unnoticeable to the average person.
In a smaller percentage of cases, fluorosis can be severe enough to cause structural damage, brown stains and mottling to the tooth.
Sheldon says that if fluoridation were to be submitted anew for approval today, “nobody would even think about it” due to the shoddy evidence of effectiveness and obvious downside of fluorosis.
There is also a definite issue of inequality when it comes to fluorosis. Blacks and Mexican-Americans have higher rates of both moderate and severe forms of the condition.
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