By Oriana Biela-Lieu, RDH
There is much talk about adding fluoride to the water system. Nationally and here at home there are concerns about fluoride and water and fluoride and cancer. There was a recent article in the Community Voice Newspaper about the City of Rohnert Park considering to add fluoride into the water system. The water fluoridation controversy arises from political, moral, ethical, and safety concerns regarding the fluoridation of public water supplies. While some countries, particularly most of Western Europe, have ceased water fluoridation, the controversy persists in others. Those opposed argue that water fluoridation may cause serious health problems, is not effective enough to justify the costs, and has a dosage that cannot be precisely controlled.
As a dental hygienist, I see the benefits of TOPICALLY applied fluoride. I also studied at UCSF, which has been a huge researcher and proponent of fluoride and fluoridated drinking water.
I had an interesting conversation with some people who were urging the City of Rohnert Park City Council to not pass a vote for adding fluoride into the water in Rohnert Park. It sounds like it would not be a good idea for this community since it would be very expensive, and since Rohnert Park is above 28 individual wells, it would be hard to regulate and control the dosage. Over fluoridation is dangerous and we do not want that in our community. Only 1-2 % of drinkable water is actually consumed by humans. There is no point to fluoridate the water that we use for washing or cooking.
On the other side, many dentists and the California Dental Association are in favor of fluoride in the water. We see individuals every day that suffer from tooth decay. The saddest thing is to see a child with rampant tooth decay who is crying in pain or who can not concentrate in school because of dental pain. Most of the people who benefit from water fluoridation are the poor or underserved communities. Often these people can not afford luxuries like bottled water and basic nutrition is supplemented by government programs. WIC and people on welfare drink tap water. There is also often a barrier to them making the most informed decisions about what is healthy and not healthy to ingest, either due to language or lack of education.
Another underserved population that will be faced with lower income and lack of dental care is seniors. Baby boomers are aging and many loose their dental benefits when they retire. Medications, especially statin drugs for managing heart disease, blood pressure, and cholesterol cause dry mouth. Dry mouth + thicker plaque= more plaque on the teeth. More plaque on teeth and under gums leads to tooth decay at gum line and gum disease. We see it daily at Blue Apple Dental Group. All dental offices serving senior patients are seeing it more and more.
What does this mean for you? Daily topical use of a fluoride toothpaste or rinse (ACT), or two fluoride treatments a year are not going to give you or your children Fluorosis. Seniors should use a high concentration fluoride toothpaste like Clin Pro daily. Read the labels on the toothpaste box. Crest and Colgate use Sodium Fluoride. This form of fluoride rinses off as soon as you drink, rinse or eat. Crest Pro Health toothpaste and mouthwash contain Stannous Fluoride. This type stays on even if you rinse, eat or drink.
Still skeptical or concerned? There is a lot of talk about water fluoridation being a conspiracy. As much as I love a good conspiracy theory, I do think people need to understand the real science before making a decision. There are many “studies” that are not true situations and show results for or against fluoride use. Of course a rat given 5 billion times the usual dose of a toxic substance is going to develop cancer! So would a human. What is probably more important to preventing tooth decay is not studies and activists, but empowering people with the knowledge and basic skills to make good food choices and have good hygiene. If you can, help someone you know to do that and feel good knowing that you are helping them take a bite out of life!