In the 1950s, dentists believed that fluoride was a “nutrient.” A nutrient is a vitamin or mineral that is necessary for good health. Dentists believed that fluoride ingestion during childhood was necessary for strong, healthy teeth. A “fluoride deficiency” was thus believed to cause cavities, just like a deficiency of calcium can cause osteoporosis, or a deficiency of vitamin-D can cause rickets. It is now known, however, that fluoride is not a nutrient. As acknowledged by the CDC, the fluoride content of a tooth has little bearing on whether or not the tooth will develop a cavity. According to the CDC:
“The prevalence of dental caries in a population is not inversely related to the concentration of fluoride in enamel, and a higher concentration of enamel fluoride is not necessarily more efficacious in preventing dental caries.”
SOURCE: CDC (2001). Recommendations for using fluoride to prevent and control dental caries in the United States. Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Review 50(RR14):1-42.
In short, people can have perfect teeth without consuming fluoridated water or any other fluoride product. As with teeth, no other tissue or cellular process requires fluoride. Accordingly, it is now accepted that fluoride is not an essential nutrient.
Excerpts from the Scientific Literature:
“Safe, responsible, and sustainable use of fluorides is dependent on decision makers (whether they be politicians or parents) having a firm grasp on three key principles: (i) fluorine is not so much ‘essential’ as it is ‘everywhere,’ (ii) recent human activities have significantly increased fluorine exposures to the biosphere, and (iii) fluorine has biogeochemical effects beyond bones and teeth.”
SOURCE: Finkelman RB, et al. (2011). Medical geology issues in North America. in O. Selinus, et al. (eds). Medical Geology. Springer Publishing.
“Fluoride is not essential for human growth and development.”
SOURCE: European Commission. (2011). Critical review of any new evidence on the hazard profile, health effects, and human exposure to fluoride and the fluoridating agents of drinking water. Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER).
“Fluoride is not in any natural human metabolic pathway.”
SOURCE: Cheng KK, et al. (2007). Adding fluoride to water supplies. British Medical Journal 335:699-702.
“[F]luoride is no longer considered an essential factor for human growth and development.”
SOURCE: National Research Council (1993). Health Effects of Ingested Fluoride. National Academy Press, Washington DC. p. 30.
“These contradictory results do not justify a classification of fluorine as an essential element, according to accepted standards.”
SOURCE: National Academy of Sciences. (1989). Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition. Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council, National Academy Press. p. 235.
Statements from U.S. Government Agencies:
“In summary, FDA does not list fluorine as an essential nutrient.”
SOURCE: Food & Drug Administration, October 1990. [See letter]
“The United States Public Health Service does not say that sodium fluoride is an essential mineral nutrient.”
SOURCE: U.S. Public Health Service, May 10, 1966. [See letter]
“Sodium fluoride used for therapeutic effect would be a drug, not a mineral nutrient. Fluoride has not been determined essential to human health. A minimum daily requirement for sodium fluoride has not been established.”
SOURCE: Food & Drug Administration, August 15, 1963. [See letter]
The Institute of Medicine Report (1997)
Some commentators have cited a 1997 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as demonstrating that fluoride is an essential nutrient. The IOM report, however, does not do so — a fact confirmed by both the President of the Institute of Medicine (Kenneth Shine), as well as the President of the National Academy of Sciences (Bruce Alberts). In a jointly authored letter on November 18, 1998, Alberts and Shine unequivocally stated:
“Nowhere in the report is it stated that fluoride is an essential nutrient. If any speaker or panel member at the September 23rd workshop referred to fluoride as such, they misspoke. As was stated in Recommended Dietary Allowances 10th Edition, which we published in 1989: ‘These contradictory results do not justify a classification of fluoride as an essential element, according to accepted standards.’” [See letter]