Meanwhile in Small town news,
September 4, 2002 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Meanwhile in Small town news, the city of Independence, Missouri is holding a battle on adding fluoride to the water. Don't say you didn't expect odd quotes from people: "We have the best water in the area as far as solids and softness go, I myself have been drinking this water for over 30 years, and I have every tooth in my mouth that God gave me, except the four the Marine Corps took away from me years ago.", I, myself, trust one authority on this, Jack D. Ripper. ;)

So... Fluoride: good, bad or neither?
posted by RobbieFal (38 comments total)
I, too, grew up in an area without fluoridated water, and I also have all my teeth. The problem is that they all have fillings in them.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:38 PM on September 4, 2002

Scientists at drug company have admitted that fluoride *causes* gum and mouth diseases.

From Patent #5,807,541 "NSAID/fluoride periodontal compositions and methods" (15 Sept 1998), filed by the pharmaceutical company Sepracor:

A method for preventing dental caries [cavities] by administering fluoride and, at the same time controlling periodontal bone loss precipitated by the fluoride, by providing a combination of fluoride and NSAID is disclosed.
We have found that fluoride, in the concentration range in which it is employed for the prevention of dental caries [cavities], stimulates the production of prostaglandins and thereby exacerbates the inflammatory response in gingivitis and periodontitis.
Thus, the inclusion of fluoride in toothpastes and mouthwashes for the purpose of inhibiting the development of caries [cavities] may, at the same time, accelerate the process of chronic, destructive periodontitis.

Patent here

Article discussing the patent here

Mad props to Memory Hole for finding these links.
posted by dejah420 at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2002

I never thought there was any doubt at all about Flouride being beneficial -- or at the very least not harmful -- until the uproar in my old home town earlier this spring when the city council considered flouridating the water supply. Suddenly, cranks started pouring out of the woodwork, talking about how dangerous flouride was, how it promoted "cancer, arthritis, and early aging." One guy even wrote in to the local paper calmly explaining that flouridation was a conspiracy by the aluminum manufacturing industry, subsidized by yearly $50,000 donations from dental associations. So, to answer your question, I guess it's BAD.
posted by Hildago at 8:43 PM on September 4, 2002

Missouri is not so far behind. Right here in Mountain View, the heart of Sillicon Valley, we just voted to begin flouridation last year. And the vote was closer than one might imagine for such an 'enlightened' community.

Now I wonder, thanks to dejah, if the nays were so wrong. Life: one uncertainty after the next.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:45 PM on September 4, 2002

Only rainwater and pure grain alcohol for me, thanks.
posted by UKnowForKids at 8:51 PM on September 4, 2002

Independence is in the creeping urban sprawl of Kansas City (map). The "hayseed at the barbershop whittling and talking about fluoridated water" imagery might be slightly off-base.
posted by cadastral at 8:52 PM on September 4, 2002

'Been drinking flouride-water for 19 years. The only fillings I ever needed were due to a severe lack of enamel on my teeth.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:53 PM on September 4, 2002

yeah.. we have 115,000 people in Independence.. still, it's sorta small. Right?
posted by RobbieFal at 8:58 PM on September 4, 2002

Flouridated water supply for 30 years, as well as suppliments in elementary school and from pediatric dentist. Result? Just had my first filling in my 30th year, and that only as a result of having failed to visit a dentist for regular care -- cleaning, polishing, etc -- and a lax attitude toward flossing within the prior 7 years.

Mom's teeth all crumbled to dust in her 50th year, after many a filling. No floridation in childhood (obviously) and only a brief exposure while she lived around here.

Anecdotal, but consistent with all other anecdotal evidence I've encountered.
posted by majick at 9:02 PM on September 4, 2002

Why insist on flouride? In past, I've even heard of efforts to require flouridation of bottled water! It seems to me that much of the argument is that if a little is good, more is better.
Is it just the raw quantity you consume, the frequency of consumption, or is consumption even necessary--is direct application to the teeth enough?

Oh, and as far as the "aluminum industry" thing, the argument I heard was that the flouride molecule that used to be added was far less toxic than the newer, cheaper molecule, "which is a poisonous by-product of aluminum production." (I make no claim as to the veracity of this statement.)
posted by kablam at 9:08 PM on September 4, 2002

We can't allow this Commie infiltration of our precious bodily fluids!
posted by nyxxxx at 9:10 PM on September 4, 2002

Whaf? Iv'f been drikinf wawa fo 23 years an I shill haf all my toof! There arf fum paranoid feofle ouf fere.
posted by spungfoo at 9:16 PM on September 4, 2002

*whistles down the lane*

What's this? Why, what a delightfully informative little link!

98% of Europe is now fluoridation free. The two holdouts are represented by England, 10% fluoridated, and Ireland, 73% fluoridated.

*continues whistling down the lane, informed*
posted by mediareport at 9:18 PM on September 4, 2002

*blushes, corrects misspelling of fluoride, removes extra "/" from URL*

*whistles down the lane*
posted by mediareport at 9:21 PM on September 4, 2002

Anecdotal evidence indeed. Fluoride is well known to prevent caries (big holes in your teeth), though too much fluoride can cause unsightly fluorosis. The chemistry involved is the replacement of a hydroxy group in hydroxyapatite (the mineral your teeth are made of) by a fluoride group, which makes your enamel harder and less soluble. Fluoride is typically not toxic at the concentrations seen in tapwater.
posted by Bletch at 9:22 PM on September 4, 2002

Any fluoride is not healthy fluoride. There is a large difference between the calcium fluoride ion that is naturally occuring, and known to help prevent tooth decay, and the industrial by-product, sodium fluoride, that's used in water and dental hygiene products, and referred to simply as flouride, as if they are the same thing. Sodium fluoride is a toxic carcinogen, and there are no studies that show any benefits to using it, dental or otherwise.
posted by mikhail at 9:51 PM on September 4, 2002

Gingivitis and rotted teeth isn't pretty.

Yeah, but if England is one of the few somewhat fluoridated European countries, why is it also the one with the worst stereotyping about bad teeth? Wouldn't you expect Italians, Spaniards or Swedes to also be the butt of bad dental hygiene jokes? If there are other factors involved, what are they?
posted by mediareport at 10:05 PM on September 4, 2002

As long as we're sharing anecdotal evidence, my OB/GYN doctor told me that during pregnancy, considering the sheer volume of water that I consume, that I should go with either bottled water or find a filter for the house that removes fluoride as well as other chemicals from the water.

She said that for dental needs, more than enough fluoride was supplied by toothpaste and that the excessive amounts in our rural water may be considered dangerous to a developing fetus.

Since I'm not allowed to have cokes, coffee, wine, martini's or fruit juices with high sugar levels...there's not much left but water, really. The research I did on existing patents and the history of how it became such a dominant meme in the American H20 supply is kinda spooky...but suffice it to say, I filter it out of our drinking water now.
posted by dejah420 at 10:07 PM on September 4, 2002

Mikhail: You lack understanding of basic chemistry. Sodium fluoride (NaF) dissociates in water to give Na+ and F- ions. Same with calcium fluoride (CaF2), you get Ca2+ and F- ions. The fluoride ion is the same from either substance, the only difference is that NaF is more soluble in water. That's why NaF is used in most dental programs for toothpaste and water additives.

As for sodium fluoride being toxic... the study you quote shows toxic effects in rats at 400 ppm (parts per million) or higher. Drinking water has about 1 ppm added (see my previous post). So, yeah, if you give rats FOUR HUNDRED TIMES MORE than you're supposed to, they'll probably die. Not relevant to real life though.
posted by Bletch at 10:12 PM on September 4, 2002

Bletch and Mikhail: Actually, I think toothpaste typically contains sodium monofluorophosphate. Which I don't know how it affects tooth decay, etc., but it does help prevent osteoporosis.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:25 PM on September 4, 2002

mr_roboto: Depends on the brand. And the effects seem to be equivalent, as this study shows.
posted by Bletch at 10:32 PM on September 4, 2002

Childrens' ice cream, Mandrake?
posted by stvc15 at 10:58 PM on September 4, 2002

"Fluoride and its various compounds are toxic all by
themselves, but their interaction with other toxic metals are of increasing concern. Research published in the December 2000 issue of the journal NeuroToxicology warns that public drinking water treated with sodium silicofluoride or fluosilicic acid, known silicofluorides (SiFs), is linked to higher uptake of lead in children. Less than 10% of fluoridation systems in the US use sodium fluoride, the substance first used to fluoridate public drinking water in 1945. SiF's are now used to treat drinking water for 140 million Americans. Yet the safety of SiFs has never been tested, nor have they been approved by the FDA." from Fluoride: The Deadly Legacy by Gary Null, Ph.D.
Here's the whole report. It deals with the many problems of fluoridation.
posted by gametone at 3:05 AM on September 5, 2002

Sorry here's the link: Fluoride: The Deadly Legacy by Gary Null, Ph.D.
posted by gametone at 3:06 AM on September 5, 2002

I love it when the author lists their qualifications after their name, it's the surest sign of a crank trying to get credibility. This fluoride argument is over 30 years old with the same crackpots claiming the same thing. It is simply not true. There is simply no evidence that the levels of fluoride in the water can do harm, but there is significant and very widely accepted evidence that fluoride in the early years makes teeth stronger.

Check up the references given by the anti-fluoridation posts here. At no time has anyone shown that where fluoride intake is properly regulated medical harm results. Whereas there are one hell of a lot of people (particulary in England) who owe their remaining dental function entirely to fluoridation of water (which by the way is also a naturally occurring process). Meanwhile, the crankiness continues...
posted by Bletch at 3:33 AM on September 5, 2002

Here's more on Mr. Gary Null (where did that PhD go?) - apart from alerting us to the insidious threat of fluoride in water, he has also made the revolutionary discovery that AIDS is not caused by HIV.

This man is the frickin' Antichrist.
posted by Bletch at 4:07 AM on September 5, 2002

Hey Bletch, surest sign of someone with no valid argument - name calling. Read the articles, check the scientific references, and open your mind.
posted by gametone at 4:27 AM on September 5, 2002

Track down a short story by Avram Davidson called "Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper". When you read it, you will understand why it's germane to this thread. (Here's a hint: dental science fiction.) After you finish bursting your shite laughing, that is.

By the way: a lifetime of fluoridation, 30 years old, and no fillings whatsoever. So there.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:30 AM on September 5, 2002

"By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." - Richard Dawkins
posted by Bletch at 4:36 AM on September 5, 2002

Dr. Hardy Limeback - Why I am now officially opposed to adding fluoride to drinking water

Want his credentials?

and damn... there's fluoride in my Guinness
posted by mikhail at 5:41 AM on September 5, 2002

I guess no one has considered the option of taking care of our teeth?
posted by FiveFrozenFish at 6:50 AM on September 5, 2002

I take care of my teeth, FrozFish, and have been on fluoridated water all my life. Four crowns, many fillings, and three wisdom teeth yanked out. Net result? I drink filtered water now (tastes better to me) and use other means to get flouride onto my teeth (twice daily brushing, etc).

I still have to go back to the dentist for another crown, but I'm thinking it is more genetics than chemistry at this point.
posted by dwivian at 7:55 AM on September 5, 2002

Here in Modesto, CA we recently voted to keep flouride OUT of our water supply. Aside from the debate about health concerns, it seemed that the expense of adding it (estimated at some $3 million per year), where it was going to come from (industrial by-product) and the fact that a lot of it goes on your lawn and car and in your pool, etc. and is therefore wasted were the deciding factors. Seems to make sense to simply use a flouride toothpaste, or even buy flouridated water for drinking. This way folks can CHOOSE if they want flouride in their water or not.
posted by dragline at 9:09 AM on September 5, 2002

Here's my take on the whole fluoride thing: my understanding of fluoride is that it only helps with teeth as they form. In other words, after about age 10, fluoride is pretty damn useless.

Given that, why medicate the entire population when the target demographic can be reached more directly with chewable tablets or mouth rinses in elementary schools? That's how I got my fluoride: once a week before morning recess.

There's no argument that I've heard that justifies medicating _me_ for my niece's _potential_ dental issues -- especially when there's an alternative.
posted by silusGROK at 9:43 AM on September 5, 2002

I don't think that Independence is the Meth capital any more.

Any more being the word I want to put emphasis on.
posted by RobbieFal at 12:51 PM on September 5, 2002

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