One outcome from our water fluoridation debate is I’m learning a lot! Discussions with both sides have taught me there’s no study showing the impact of fluoridation for a community with tooth decay rates as low as Davis’. Few communities have such good dental health, including many with fluoridated water.
If we opt for fluoridation, let’s keep good stats so that others can make a more informed decision. The lower the cavity rate, the less likely fluoridation is to benefit.
Also, when teeth are exposed to different forms of fluoride, benefits are not additive. Unfortunately, most fluoridation studies were done before modern fluoride varnishes existed.
An American Medical Association study shows high rates of bottled water consumption among low-income Latinos and blacks, who spend a disproportionate amount of income on bottled water compared to whites. No studies document effectiveness of fluoridation in areas with high rates of bottled-water consumption.
A 2005 American Dental Association booklet sheds light on bottled-water consumption: “… growing by at least one gallon per person each year — more than doubling in the last 10 years.” In 2004, the annual per capita consumption was 23.8 gallons and growing by more than 7 percent yearly. “U.S. residents now drink more bottled water annually than any other beverage with the exception of carbonated soft drinks.”
A 1994 study in Rhode Island showed that 59 percent of households with children used only bottled water for drinking. “Fifty-two percent of the children on public assistance and 35 percent of the uninsured children used bottled water.” The booklet sums up: “Individuals who drink bottled water as their primary source of water could be missing the decay preventive effects of optimally fluoridated water…”
Despite its pro-fluoridation stance, the ADA recommends against fluoride supplements for those with unfluoridated water, except for children at high risk. Even for these children, they recommend tallying total fluoride sources before determining supplement amount.
Many studies show how important prenatal and early childhood nutrition is. Dental decay in children is largely a disease of malnutrition. A 2004 Journal of the American Dental Association article finds that simply eating breakfast and five servings of fruit/vegetables yields significant reduction in decay. Also, severe early childhood caries, which may require general anesthesia, are tied to poverty and malnutrition — the same factors associated with childhood obesity.
Rather than fluoridate, let’s increase funding for holistic early-intervention programs like Step by Step.