The Water Fluoridation Controversy

I went to the dentist a couple of days ago, and it was horrible. Really just the worst experience. I was poked and prodded at, which is to be expected. Then I was shamed about my dental habits, also expected, equally frustrating. This wretch of a dental hygienist even ridiculed me for not spending enough money on an friggin toothbrush.

Her – Are you using an electric toothbrush?

Me – (mumbled – because conversation is clearly necessary when you have my mouth prayed open) Yes.

Her – Well what kind is it?

Me – (still mumbling, as I am in the midst of what is clearly a mid-evil torture practice) I dunno, I bought it for like six bucks at Walgreens.

Her – Six or Sixty??

Me – (Mumbling and visibally distract) SIX, I cannot afford a sixty dollar toothbrush…

Her – Well, you get what you pay for…

Look, I am thirty years old, and until earlier this year I had never had so much as a cavity filled. I have never needed a root canal, or any other type of emergency dental procedures. Aside from my wisdom teeth, I’ve never had a tooth pulled. I’ve had braces. I bush multiple times a day. I floss, maybe less than I should, but I fucking floss. I do not go to the dentist to get a lecture on how much money I spend on my fucking toothbrush. I go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. I can’t think of a time when I have ever had a pleasant, or even tolerable, experience.

How does this relate to fluoridated water?

It doesn’t. It was just the catalyst for this article. When I was released from my torture chamber I wanted to write something, possibly horrible, about the dental industry. I though to my self, is there a conspiracy theory involving dentists? Are they all really demon spawns from hell, sent here to torture us for our misdeeds? So what did I do? Well, I did what one always does when they have a weird question, I googled it. What I came up with was a controversy that I’m reasonably familiar with. Water Fluoridation.

It’s much less exciting than demon dentists, but it is something that has an impact on a significant amount of people.

Why is there a controversy about Water Fluoridation?

Before I start rambling opinion at you, I’ll lay out the basics:

  1. There is fluoride in your tap water.
  2. The CDC, the ADA, and the WHO are all in agreement, that there should be fluoride in your drinking water.
  3. There is a debate about wether or not it is safe, necessary, and ethical to inject fluoride into our drinking water.

How much Fluoride is in my Water?

According to the CDC website, “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a level of 0.7 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) of fluoride in your drinking water.” This is exactly the amount of water my city has in our drinking water, another thing you can check out on the CDC website (as long as your state participates). 0.07 mg/L is the amount of fluoride recommended to prevent tooth decay. So if our main authorities on heath are in agreement that this is beneficial to for the population, why is there so much controversy surrounding fluoride?

Fluoride Toxicity

I was aware that fluoride in larger doses can cause fluoride toxicity, so I did some digging on what exactly this means. The first thing I wanted to look into is at what level does fluoride becomes dangerous? The information was much less readily available than I expected, but I came across a very informative article in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. They state that the toxic level of fluoride is “5mg F/kg Body Weight”. Which is by my calculation (and I’m really bad at math, so feel free to check me on this) is 71 times the amount that is recommended for use in our drinking water.

Also mentioned is that the largest number of reported cases of fluoride toxicity come from ingesting toothpaste and mouthwash, and over 80 percent of fluoride toxicity cases are in children under the age of 6. This basically comes down to the fact that toothpaste tastes good and kids like to eat things that taste good. The other thing I was interested in are the effects of fluoride toxicity, the article I sited earlier discusses these as well, they range from bad to horrible. These side include (but are not limited to) nausea, vomiting, respiratory issues, renal issues, birth defects, cancer, and of course, death.

In Conclusion:

While these effects are horrible (and I’m pretty sure I have to lock all my toothpaste away from my toddler), I’m still pretty comfortable with the fact that the amount of fluoride in our water system is safe, at least from causing toxicity. I found references to some studies stating that fluoridated water can cause lower IQ’s in children, which if true, would probably put me on the other side of the issue. As a population we need all the IQ points we can get. However, while I read a lot about the study, I didn’t actually turn up with it. The references made to it tend to be in fairly biased media sources as well. This is not to say you shouldn’t look it to it, you should. I’m interested in hearing what you find.

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