29 Oct 2008
Obviously, dental hygiene is a priority to conscientious parents. Yet, in spite of the advancements in dental care, more than one fourth of two to five year-olds and half of kids 12 to 15 have one or more cavities. To counteract this, many suggest that adding fluoride to public water will help. Others say it will do more harm than good.
Fluoride is the 13th most common element in the Earth’s crust and exists naturally in water. Some water has sufficient natural fluoride. But what if it is not naturally present? Should fluoride be added to water systems? The debate about fluoride won’t be settled here. Rather, the purpose of this article is to consider a few of these points, and to give you some options. You need to know whether you need a fluoride filter for your drinking water.
One side says, “Today, water fluoridation is estimated to reduce tooth decay by 20-40%.” “It is well known that fluoride helps prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.” These statements have the authority of a trained doctor. This one also: “For over 60 years, water fluoridation has proved to be a safe and cost-effective way to reduce dental caries.”
The pro side claims that fluoride combats tooth decay in two ways. First, it becomes part of the structure of developing teeth. Second, it also works when it comes in contact with the surface of the teeth. Fluoride prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel, the hard and shiny substance that protects the teeth. Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, themselves. Fluoride cannot repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from forming.
On the other hand we have quotes like this: “. . . there is no difference in the tooth decay rates of the fluoridated and nonfluoridated areas surveyed.” Indeed, some studies, they say, show that the more fluoride children ingest, the higher their risk of dental decay.
Fluorosis, a discoloration or mottling of the permanent teeth results when children 8 years of age or younger take in too much fluoride. During these years teeth are forming. To add fluoride to water along with what children get in toothpaste and dental treatments might well exceed this limit.
At times the studies have not considered the long range effects of fluoride. The con side says it has been directly linked to cancer, changes in bone structure and strength, has caused birth defects and perinatal deaths, has impaired the immune system, caused initial stages of skeletal fluorosis, caused osteoarthritis, inhibits key enzymes, suppresses thyroid function and several other adverse problems.
How do opponents answer to evidence mentioned above that fluoride is good for dental hygiene? They say the studies are flawed in several ways. First, the studies did not consider the fact that other minerals were in the water and they might have been the real factor in decreased instances of tooth decay. Second, they failed to differentiate between “natural fluoride” (like CaF) and added fluoride (like NaF). Third, the studies lacked statistical proof. Fourth, only dental fluorosis was included as safety experiments.
If your conclusion from these points is that fluoride should not be in your drinking water, what can you if it is? Some opt for bottled water but this gets expensive. A better alternative is to purchase a water filter that removes fluoride. Some expensive units do this. Other less expensive units have optional fluoride filters. The Berkey Water Filter, for example, has available an additional filter that can we attached below the regular charcoal filters and will remove fluoride from the water. If you don’t want fluoride, you don’t have to drink it.