Fire Away! Fluoride: A dentist's best friend or your health's worst nightmare?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

  • Half full or half empty of fluoride?

    Half full or half empty of fluoride?

Written by Stephanie Rennie

I have bleached white spots on my teeth, but that is the least of my concerns when it comes to fluoride.

It is evident that fluoride has been found beneficial in the dentistry world and has been implemented to reduce tooth decay upon annual visits to the dentist. However, that doesn’t validate the overall health effects caused by ingesting this mineral in drinking water.

Though fluoride may be a dentist’s best friend as a patient obediently gargles a Dixie cup filled with watermelon flavoured liquid, its effects in drinking water might be another story.

Many cities have implemented fluoridated drinking water to improve the general oral health of residents. However, it is argued that such cities failed to factor the negative health effects of ingesting fluoride over a large period of time.

Scientific evidence has revealed that one effect of over-fluoridation is dental fluorosis. This elaborate term is used to describe the white marks permanently staining the teeth of people that have been exposed to an abundance of the mineral. It is argued however, that fluorosis is a mere cosmetic concern and poses no real health threats, though one inflicted with this issue may feel otherwise.

Some medical concerns affiliated with fluoride are of upmost severity and are definitely not aesthetic inconveniences. Fluoridated water has been speculated to cause depletion of both bone and brain structures. Scientific research is both fueling and addressing the fluoride debate as researchers execute various tests observing a relationship between fluoridated water and cancer.

Despite your stance on this heated debate, one must wonder what this means to us as Guelph citizens.

Guelph water remains fluoride free and the trend is quickly spreading. In October, our neighbouring Waterloo residents took a stand against fluoridated drinking water and removed it from their water supply. Major cities of Montreal and Vancouver are also known for their fluoride free water.

In British Columbia, ninety five percent of the water is not fluoridated. The province of Quebec shows similar statistics, though the dental health of residents of these parts of Canada proves to be similar to those living in areas with fluoridated water.

In fact, tooth decay is generally decreasing in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries around the world.

One of the major issues with fluoridated water in cities where residents may be opposed is the difficulty in manually removing the substance from the water. Standard filtration systems that remove other minerals prove ineffective in removing fluoride. In fact, the system necessary to remove fluoride from tap water is complex and quite expensive. As a result, residents living in areas that subscribe to the positive dental benefits of fluoride in their water supply are forced to deal with possible consequences.

In the world of academia, much debate stirs as to the tangible effects of ingesting fluoride.

Catherine Carstairs, a History professor at the University of Guelph, is examining this issue from a historical perspective. Carstairs delves deeply into the historical timeline of fluoride and the debate that surrounds this controversial issue, as indicated in articles published in the University of Guelph community regarding her contribution to the ongoing debate.

Many scholars and dentists alike have entered the debate on either side of the fence.

Dr. Robert C. Dickson is a well-known activist against fluoridated water systems based on its impact on the human body. In many CBC news reports earlier this year, Dickson advocated that fluoride is only effective when applied topically. Therefore, the substance must be utilized by means of toothpaste and rinses, instead of through liquid that is ingested in the human body.

However, the opposite side of the spectrum remains firm on their stance that fluoride is safe in controlled doses within city drinking water and that no evidence has proven its harmfulness. Activists for fluoridated water, such as Dr. Tomkins are supportive of its implementation in drinking water as they suggest that its health effects are minimal and its dental benefits are vast.

One of the greatest issues of fluoridated drinking water is the lack of freedom extended to residents. Such residents are exposed to possibly harmful substances found within a fundamental necessity that must be consumed for everyday survival.

Though our teeth may be brighter, whiter, and stronger, one must wonder if our health is being jeopardized by this stealthy substance disguised in a mere glass of cold water.

The water flowing from our taps may be free, but at what cost to our health?

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every other Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.


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  1. Posted by: on Aug 7, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    I think people should have the option to drink fluoride containing water. Most people probably are unaware of the fact that they are drinking fluoridated water and if fluoride only works when applied topically...why put it in drinking water? That makes no sense to me. If people don't want to brush their teeth and take care of their dental health then putting fluoride into their drinking supply isn't going to do anything. Oral hygiene involves more than drinking fluoridated water..... flossing and brushing regularly is a must.

  2. Posted by: on Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:50pm

    Fantastic article, Stephanie. it is really heartening to learn that awareness of fluoride toxicity is finally spreading,and that major centres are defluoridating. That's wonderful news.

    Involuntary mass medication should be avoided at all costs.

    Also noteworthy is that the supposed therapeutic dose, and the supposed toxic dose of fluoride are not very far apart.This can have grave consequences for individuals who are very thirsty and drinking lots of water, such as people who are active outdoors in the summer. Their water consumption could easily put them over the edge.

    Thank you for writing this very informative article to make still more people aware of this vital issue.

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