Following Fluoridated Drinking Water to the Source

It’s a hot summer day, and you want a refreshing glass of ice-cold water. We are reminded to drink half of our body weight in ounces of water each day, but what are we really drinking? Most of us refill our water bottles with plain tap water, but it is not as clean as you may think. Fluoride has been added to the drinking water with the hopes of increasing our dental health. However, it may be doing more harm than good.

If you want to know exactly what your drinking water contains, here is the history and unintentional consequences of adding this chemical into the water supply.

The History of Fluoridated Drinking Water

Dr. Frederick S. McKay is the leading dentist responsible for the movement to add fluoride into the drinking water supply. In early 1901, he established his dental practice and began to notice an interesting pattern. Many of his patients had spots on their enamel, but they were less prone to the development of cavities. After years of investigating this, he attributed it to an ingredient in the public water supply.

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Shortly after Dr. McKay’s discovery, Dr. F.L. Robertson of Bauxite, Arkansas, noticed the same issue in his pediatric patients after the city dug a well. He also concluded that something in the well water was contributing to the spotty condition of his patients’ enamel. The town discontinued the use of the well, but that was not the end of the story.

In 1930, a new method of spectrographic analysis was done to sample the well water. They found high levels of fluoride in the supply, which led to more research on the connection between the spotted enamel and the fluoride. The condition of mottled enamel was now known as fluorosis and was being investigated by the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health. Dr. H. Trendley Dean headed up the new research and found some amazing results.

He found that low levels of fluoride were able to reduce the prevalence of cavities in his pediatric patients and participants. Low levels of fluoride were excellent, but at concentrations greater than 1.0 ppm, the effects begin to taper off. Amounts greater than this begin to demonstrate the symptoms of mild fluorosis and reintroduce spotted enamel, stained teeth, and pitting as the levels increase.

The idea to introduce low levels of fluoride into drinking water was born. Cities began to test the hypothesis that fluoride would lead to lower levels of cavities and they were initially successful. However, there is clear evidence that adding fluoride to all tap water and dental hygiene products may not be good for our overall health.

The Disadvantages of Fluoridated Drinking Water

When fluoride was originally added into the drinking water, people began to see a sharp decrease in the number of cavities and other forms of tooth decay that can develop. It was labeled one of the top public health achievements of the century. Unfortunately, these results may have been skewed by flawed test results and methods. For example, many of these studies did not take into account that participants may have been using fluoride toothpaste in addition to the drinking water.

Now, even countries without fluoride added to their drinking water are seeing a decrease in tooth decay. This decrease may have nothing at all to do with the levels of fluoride found in tap water.

Studies are beginning to show the opposite effect. Fluoride can reach dangerously high levels that can cause issues related to fluorosis. This condition comes with symptoms like white spots, stained teeth, and pitting. Unfortunately, the issues with consuming too much fluoride go even deeper than the mouth. They also affect the skeletal system in pretty profound ways.

Fluoride is known to stimulate bone cell growth, which might seem like a good thing at first glance. Unfortunately, it also alters the structure of the tissue and makes for a weaker skeleton.

New research is currently underway which shows more pressing problems with the higher levels of fluoride in the drinking water. Lab animals that have been exposed to high levels of fluoride are demonstrating damage to the brain and nerve cells. In human epidemiological studies, it could be linked to issues with learning, memory, and other cognitive deficits.

Following the Money

Of course, many companies stand to gain quite a bit through fluoridation of the drinking water in America. The American Dental Association (ADA) and many of the companies associated with it tend to be benefactors of this movement. Millions of dollars in donations are recdeived by this organization from pharmaceutical companies, dental equipment manufacturers, and even insurance companies. Many of these are brands that you are probably familiar with such as Colgate, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.

You might already see the connection and how these companies stand to benefit from fluoridated drinking water. Because higher levels of fluoride can cause more issues with teeth, it creates a vicious cycle that encourages people to return to their dentists more frequently. As a result, dentists are using more medical equipment and prescribing the use of more dental products to counteract white spots, staining, and even pitting.

These companies have a lot in stake with the ongoing debate over fluoride in the drinking water. If people begin to realize that too much fluoride is a bad thing, they may not choose to purchase fluoride-enhanced toothpaste and other products. Companies like Colgate and Procter & Gamble turn a lot of profit based on toothpaste and mouthwashes enhanced with fluoride.

Doing Your Homework

No matter where in the United States you live, chances are that you have some degree of fluoride in your tap water. Consuming small amounts of fluoride in this way can be beneficial for your oral hygiene but you can have too much of a good thing. Consider switching to store-bought waters that do not have this same ingredient. You might be protecting your teeth, your skeletal system, and even your brain from potential harm.

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