Fluoride In Our Water: An Ancestral Health Perspective
(Please note that this post is about fluoridated water, not topical fluoride)
We are not getting cavities due to fluoride deficiency. There is no biological need for fluoride in any metabolic process in the body. (1) Studies of ancient fluoride free skulls reveal no tooth decay. The study of ancestral health has led me to the conclusion that ancient diets and lifestyles kept us decay free. As a paleo based functional medicine practitioner, I feel that matching our environment to our genetic heritage, while minimizing risky behaviors including taking pharmaceuticals with dubious side effects is the way to go. Adding fluoride to drinking water is contrary to the principles of functional medicine. Read my post on The Functional/Ancestral way to approach tooth decay to find out what I really think you should be doing to stop tooth decay.
Fluoride and dentistry go together like salt and pepper. Most people would agree that fluoride added to our drinking water is a key factor for lower decay rates in our children. A review of the early history of fluoride and teeth actually reveals that the first connection was a negative one. Certain geographic regions once had a very high incidence of children who had brown stains on their teeth. The condition was known as mottled enamel. In Colorado it was known as Colorado stain and in Naples, Italy it was known as Denti Di Chiale. Epidemiological studies linked the condition to the local water supplies where it was determined that the water had naturally occuring high levels of fluoride. In 1931, Dr.’s Smith and Smith concentrated water known to cause mottled enamel in Arizona children and gave it to rats who then developed the condition, thus proving that high fluoride concentrations in water caused mottled enamel. Since then mottled enamel has become known as dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is actually caused by fluoride damage to the cells (ameloblasts) making tooth enamel during tooth formation. It was considered to be the first sign of fluoride toxicity. Today, this designation has been trivialized, yet 8 to 51% of children in fluoridated communities suffer from dental fluorosis, and 3 to 26% of children in non-fluoridated communities suffer from dental fluorosis due to its presence in much of our food supply.
In 1921 Dr. Norman Ainsworth noted that cavities were around 50% lower in children from Maldon, a town known for naturally high levels of fluoride in the drinking water and the associated fluorosis. In 1942, Dean, Arnold and Elvove concluded after studying 21 cities that the ideal concentration of fluoride should be 1 part per million (PPM) which soon came to be the standard. (2).
Dr. Dean conducted the first artificially fluoridated water study in 1945 in Grand Rapids. 8 years later, the results were conclusive. The children in Grand Rapids had 50% less decay than the children of Muskegon, a nearby town with no fluoride added to the water. The experiment was duplicated in the New York town of Newburgh with Kingston as the control group the same year. Similar results were found and released in 1955. Several other similar studies have been conducted in the United States, Canada, The UK, The Netherlands and elsewhere with very similar results. The conclusion drawn was that fluoride ingested in drinking water at 1PPM caused a 50% reduction in tooth decay. The researchers knew that fluoridated water benefited only children. Anyone with fully developed teeth would not benefit by ingesting fluoridated water. Adding Fluoride to the water supply was deemed acceptable, as the side effects were not considered harmful in any way. Sadly, there are side effects to drinking fluoridated water which I will discuss shortly.
The results of all of the trials on fluoridated water were actually misinterpreted. The decrease in tooth decay was atributed to fluoride directly. Instead, there was only a correlation. If I told you that shark attack frequency is directly linked to increased ice cream consumption, would you assume that ice cream causes sharks to attack? Of course not, they are merely correlated. The researchers assumed that fluoride was the cause of lower decay rates without elucidating the actual mechanism of action. Promoters have cited thousands of studies espousing the effectiveness of fluoridation, but they have yet to reveal the existence of even one study that conforms to normal standards of scientific credibility. (3) Suppositions in science are perfectly fine, but only as a stimulus for further investigation. They are not supposed to stand in for actual facts, let alone stand as dogma.
Initially, it was believed that the fluoride was incorporated into the forming enamel which made it harder and less susceptible to decay. This has been disproven. The July 2000 Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) confirmed that the mechanism by which fluoride works on the reduction of dental caries is by topical application, not ingestion. The Center for Disease Control acknowledge in their report of August 17, 2001, “The prevalence of dental caries in a population is not inversely related to the concentration of fluoride in enamel”. (4) As a result, the FDA required the deletion of all government references previously classifying fluoride as "essential or probably essential" (Federal Register, March 16, 1979, pg. 16006).
So, if fluoride incorporated into teeth does not make them stronger, why does it cause a 50% decrease in decay in children? Several studies have found a delay in tooth eruption for children drinking fluoridated water (5). The delay in eruption fully accounts for the transient reduction in tooth decay seen in the 5 to 8-year-old children (6). If teeth have been present for less time, there is less chance of decay. It is true that childhood decay can be cut in half with fluoridated water, but the decay rates even out over time. All of the recent large-scale studies on fluoridation and tooth decay show that fluoridation does not reduce tooth decay. (7) The data from the six cities of California that were studied when analyzed separately, shows that after 44 years of water fluoridation there is no statistically significant difference in the Decayed-Missing-Filled-Teeth rate for the two largest California cities. The highest decay rate is seen in low income areas such as Cutler/Orsi. San Francisco, fluoridated since 1952, fared no better than non-fluoridated Lodi. Non-fluoridated Los Angeles is not statistically different from affluent San Francisco. (8)
The above information should be enough to convince most individuals that fluoridated drinking water is unnecessary, but there are other considerations. The variety of fluoride used in 91% of the artificial fluoridation operations is untreated hydrofluosilicic acid waste from the phosphate mining industry. It has never been tested, nor been proven safe or effective. It also contains numerous contaminants, including arsenic and lead. (8) Yet our government seeems to believe this is just fine.
All drugs are prescribed at a therapeutic dose that is well below the toxic dose. If you were given a prescription by your doctor that said take as much as you want whenever you want or not at all, you would be shocked. But this is exactly the case with fluoridated water. With fluoridated water, it is impossible to determine exactly how much a person is ingesting. Fluoride is so pervasive now, it is on our vegetables in the form of pesticide as well as in the bones of chickens who also ingest the same pesticides to name a few common non-water sources. This is why children in non-fluoridated areas have fluorosis levels of up to 26%. Adding a therapeutic agent to our water without regard to the consumption rate/dose is not at all in keeping with modern medical practice. In short, fluoride has gotten to the point where all of the sources are impossible to monitor.
Fluoride accumulates over time in our bones. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment estimates that an average 75-year-old may ingest an amount three times higher than that found in stage III skeletal fluorosis which is a debilitating disease caused by fluoride poisoning. Phase I and Phase II occur at much earlier stages of exposure, which causes suffering first from sporadic pain and stiffness of joints, and then arthritic symptoms, slight calcification of ligaments, with or without osteoporosis. (9) Of course acute poisoning by ingesting too much fluoride is also very dangerous. Look at any toopaste label and see for yourself.
The National Cancer Institute surveyed the entire United States population and the data published in their study indicated that there is a 68% greater chance of developing osteosarcomas in fluoridated communities than non-fluoridated communities.
Hip fracture rates are substantially higher in people residing in fluoridated communities. (10)
Fluoride exposure and dental fluorosis are linked to lower IQ and neurological impairment. (11)
Keep in mind that some segments of the population are at a higher risk for fluoride toxicity. This includes infants whose kidneys are not fully functional and can therefore excrete less, the elderly, people with deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, and/or vitamin C, those with cardiovascular issues, diabetics, and individuals with kidney disease. (12) Ethics would dictate that the levels put in our drinking water should be low enough to not cause any side effects, nor be above the level tolerable by those who can’t process fluoride adequately. Sadly, this is not the case.
In conclusion, since fluoride is not needed for any metabolic pathway, has toxic side effects, the body burden is cumulative, the dose can’t be monitored, and certain populations are more vulnerable to the toxicity, I am not in favor of fluoridating our water. Topical fluoride use has been proven safe and effective when properly used. I will address the use of topical fluoride in a future post.