The fluoride debate

Is fluoride good for your teeth, or a slow poison? We look at the most recent evidence.
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  • Updated:23 Feb 2007

04.Q and A

Q. I’ve heard that where some cities overseas have abandoned fluoridation, their rates of dental decay have continued to decline. Doesn’t this prove that fluoridation doesn’t work?

Although this is often claimed, the 2000 UK review found that out of 16 studies reporting on what happens if fluoridation is stopped, 12 found that the rate of tooth decay increased again.

Q. Hasn’t fluoridation been banned in Europe?

No, fluoridation is permitted under European Union regulations. In some countries water fluoridation isn’t practical because of very complex water systems without a central point to add fluoride. As a substitute for fluoride in water, many countries add fluoride to salt, which is then used in products like bread that most people eat, while others add fluoride to milk.

Q. I’ve seen claims that proponents of fluoridation are suppressing scientific evidence.

The UK experts considered this claim from a statistical point of view. They concluded that any missed (or concealed) study would have to be very large and very different from those that they analysed to overturn the overall beneficial result for water fluoridation. In any case, in the internet age any credible research can be brought into the public domain for review and debate.

Q. Isn’t fluoridation unethical? Some people consider it mass medication.

It’s more equivalent to fortifying breakfast cereals with vitamins and minerals to help prevent shortages than medication to cure a disease.


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