Making the case for fluoridated water

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A recent University of Alaska study that found an increase in childhood dental decay in two cities that halted the use of fluoridated water demonstrates why this public health measure is needed, says Dean Cecile A. Feldman of Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

Feldman explains how fluoride in drinking plays a key role in preventing and as well as the need for change in the Garden State, where only 15 percent of residents live in town with fluoridated water.

How does the rate of fluoridated water in New Jersey compare to the rest of the country and why does it matter?

The Garden State has the second lowest fluoridation rate in American, ranking 49 out of 50 states, behind Hawaii, according to the United Health Foundation.

Many studies show that fluoride in drinking water dramatically lowers cases of in children. According to the research from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, the rate of childhood cavities in two cities where fluoridated water was halted in 2007 showed that the number of cases was 25 percent lower in 2003 than in 2017.

What are the effects of dental disease on children and adults?

For children, is one of the most common infectious diseases. Severe toothaches cause kids to lose sleep, miss school, and have difficulty focusing in class. It has a disproportionate impact on lower-income state residents. At Rutgers School of Dental Medicine clinics in Newark and South Jersey, we see what happens when people can't afford oral healthcare. More children are treated with painful infections caused by decay. Older adults with no teeth suffer from poor nutrition because they can't chew their food. They can't afford dentures or implants.

Why isn't it enough to have fluoride in toothpaste or take fluoride supplements?

Alternatives to fluoridated water aren't cheap or convenient. Fluoridated vitamins cost money and require visits to the doctor and pharmacy. They also need to be taken every day. Parents can forget and children can be resistant. Fluoride in toothpaste is an inadequate substitute and not everyone brushes their teeth regularly or properly.

Why are some communities so resistant to adding fluoride to their water?

Part of it is based on unfounded fears that is harmful and causes everything from cancer to lower IQs. But there is absolutely no credible evidence to support this. At very high levels, it's been confirmed that it can cause fluorosis, which causes white stains on teeth but really does no other damage. Ever since community fluoridation programs began more than 50 years ago, fringe groups have voiced paranoid suspicions that fluoridated water is an attempt at – often for nefarious reasons.

How can New Jersey get more fluoride in the water?

For more than a decade, the New Jersey Dental Association and the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine have pushed for to mandate statewide water fluoridation. The latest effort, in 2013, resulted in legislation that was voted down. Similar legislation was also voted down in 2018. But the need has been just as great. Hopefully, the public and state government will soon recognize the tremendous value of water fluoridation. As a growing mountain of evidence shows its efficacy, it gets harder to ignore.

Explore further

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Jan 31, 2019
"No credible evidence" of lowered IQ? How about this:

Sad how the promoters of fluoridation quote weak studies showing benefit yet ignore stronger studies showing harm.

Jan 31, 2019
davidg - The Bashash, et al. study you reference is hardly credible evidence of anything. At best is shows a possible correlation of about 3% between maternal fluoride levels and children's IQ. Other possible causes of the almost non-existent correlation, like possible arsenic exposure, were not considered. The actual data looks like a drunken monkey threw darts at the graph paper and the results were later used to draw the published conclusions. Only anti-science activists would use a study like this to prove anything.

Bottom line: This study has demonstrated no association of drinking optimally fluoridated water with any reduction in IQ: Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. Broadbent, et al., Am J Public Health. 2015 January

Jan 31, 2019
Ken's entitled to his opinions, but a guy that calls his website "Open Parachute" but isn't critical of any of the research from the promoters isn't exactly the most unbiased source.
We know that Broadbent turned our pure junk and McLaren was highly biased and did exactly the same thing that Ken accuses FAN of, omitting contrary evidence that she had but didn't mention in her paper.
Has Ken been critical of ANY pro-fluoridation research? If not, he can't really claim that his parachute is open.

Jan 31, 2019
davidg - You are presenting your unsupported opinions to support your unsupportable opinions. The only ones who believe "Broadbent turned our pure junk and McLaren was highly biased" are fluoridation opponents who are unable to see beyond their closed-minded biases.

If there were any respected science or health organizations that supported the anti-F opinions there might be some validity to your opinions.

Since virtually all respected science and health organizations in the world recognize the science (and scientific consensus) that supports community water fluoridation, I will choose to accept the consensus that fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure to reduce dental decay and related health issues.

How do you explain the relevance of the Bashash study with only a 3% correlation and failure to consider potential confounding factors?

Your mind, like a parachute, doesn't work if it's closed - and closed it is.

Jan 31, 2019

In Broadbent's study, some of the kids in the non-fluoridated water group were taking fluoride pills, rendering the results useless. With McLaren the data points didn't correspond to the ending of fluoridation and other data she did have, but didn't mention, indicated that the majority of the increase in decay happened before fluoridation ended. My question, which you didn't answer, was: Did Ken mention any of these weaknesses in his commentary? Has he ever mentioned anything negative about research from any fluoridation promoter anywhere? His 3% conclusion is his opinion and it may be valid or it may not be, but there is no doubt that he carries a bias. Bashash did consider confounding factors, including lead, just not arsenic. Until you have a better study, all you have are endorsements, which are meaningless to the debate.

Jan 31, 2019
davidg - The accusations you mistakenly apply to Broadbent's study have been addressed as have the anti-F accusations about McLaren's study. Ken did address your concerns, and if you have problems with his assessment, you can take them up with him.

What the science and health communities have is a scientific consensus based on more than 70 years of studies that community water fluoridation (CWF) is a safe and effective public health measure. If you believe you have legitimate evidence that proves harm from CWF provide it. Then there will be something specific to discuss instead of your opinions. Better yet - if you have legitimate evidence, stop wasting time commenting on sites like this and go to the experts to convince them.

Bottom line: The scientific and health communities continue to support CWF. There is no such support for the anti-F opinions - Why not????

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