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Fluoride - Science VS Conspiracy Theories

9 Jun 2008 8:33 PM - Dr Roger Morris

Queensland Health claims that Queenslanders have the worst teeth in Australia, with the highest rates of tooth decay. This situation is leading to high personal and community costs, as well as reducing our health and wellbeing. Queensland Health states correctly that tooth decay is totally preventable by eating a healthy diet, regular and effective brushing and flossing, and having regular dental check-ups. Fluoridation of local water supplies is also a proven effective and safe way to maximise dental health in communities.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in food, water, plants, rocks and soil. Topping up natural fluoride to a level of between 0.6 and 0.9 parts per million in community water supplies provides crucial additional protection against a disease of growing concerns. More than 75% of residents in other Australian states and territories have had fluoridated water for between 30 and 50 years. Less than 5% of the Queensland population currently have access to the benefits of fluoridated water.

How does it work?

Tooth decay occurs when acidic substances attack the surface of the tooth. Water fluoridation combats tooth decay in three ways: by making teeth more resistant to decay, by helping repair early decay before it becomes permanent and helps stop bacteria in the mouth producing acidic substances which lead to tooth decay. A constant low level supply of fluoride is best for this. Fluoride in drinking water is like a constant ‘repair kit’ for your teeth.

What are the benefits of fluoride?

Fluoride is helpful because it:

  • Helps protect against tooth decay in children and adults
  • Repairs weak spots that can become cavities on the tooth surface
  • Reduces the amount of money people spend on dental treatment
  • Saves the community time and money
  • Reduces discomfort and pain caused by tooth decay.

Dental decay can expose the whole body to harmful bacteria and toxins, which can severely affect our general health. Water fluoridation is recommended by the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Australian Dental Association (ADA), Public Health Association of Australia, World Health Organisation (WHO), FDI World Dental Federation, Australian Institute of Environmental Health and many more national and international health organisations.

Controversies and Conspiracy Theories

Too much fluoride at an early age can cause dental fluorosis, resulting in mottling, staining and pitting of teeth permanently. It cannot develop after teeth are fully formed and does not affect the function of the teeth. Children under the age of 5 years should not use full strength fluoride toothpaste or fluoride supplements if they live in areas with fluoridated water. Fluorosis of bones resulting in brittle bones can occur in countries such as India and Pakistan, where natural levels of fluoride in water are very high. Some members of the community are against water fluoridation due to philosophical concerns about adding any substances to community water supplies, or concerns about water fluoridation causing allergy, bone fractures, birth defects and cancer. The best scientific studies have shown that water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to help protect teeth against decay. CHOICE (www.choice.com.au/) provides an excellent, balanced review of the pros and cons of water fluoridation and came to the verdict that benefits far outweighed risks from its review of the evidence.