Fluoride Action Network

Why Not Debate?

Fluoride Action Network | September 23, 2000

The Fluoride Action Network would like to applaud the editors at the Salt Lake Tribune for their editorial concerning fluoridation proponents’ unwillingness to debate the issue they so enthusiastically endorse (see below). This “No Debating” policy of proponents is an insult to both science and democracy and it is encouraging to see this recognized by the broader public.

Along with the editorial, we have included quotes on debating from Dr. Michael Easley, Director of the National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research, Dr. Tony Tidwell of the Salt Lake Valley Board of Health, and letters from the various Utah organizations that turned down the offer to debate Dr. Paul Connett last Saturday, September 16, 2000, in Salt Lake City. In total, 23 individuals and organizations were asked to debate, and every single one refused the offer.

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Salt Lake Tribune

September 23, 2000

One-Sided Debate

Fluoride proponents did themselves and their cause no service when they shunned two forums on the topic of fluoridating public water supplies last Saturday. Indeed, their willful decision to stay away was a studied insult to the voters and to the Jeffersonian idea of an informed citizenry making informed public decisions.

Proponents refused to attend the two debates featuring anti-fluoride chemist Paul Connell of St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., because, they said, it would lend legitimacy to Connell and the anti-fluoride cause.

Wow. This is like Al Gore refusing to attend a debate with George W. Bush because doing so would lend legitimacy to the Texas governor’s quest for the presidency. Or, it could be rendered the other way, too. Either way, it shows contempt for the ability of regular citizens to make an informed decision.

Although no one says it, the condescending attitude that one’s political foes are too inferior, irrational or devious to meet in debate raises a more fundamental question: Namely, what do those shrinking violets really think of the notion that regular citizens — people who go to work every day, beget and raise their children and try to make ends meet — actually get to be the ones who make the decision?

A political movement that is so contemptuous of those it disagrees with probably hates the thought that regular, common citizens get to say yes or no to their scheme. They obviously feel that the citizenry can be better nudged to making the right decision — theirs — if they are confronted only with a solid front of proponents, while opponents eager to gainsay them are marginalized and ignored.

It is too bad. Whether to add fluoride to municipal water supplies should be discussed on its merits. The citizens who are to decide should demand this. If fluoride proponents appear too arrogant to confront their foes, voters will construe their hubris as something that should give them pause.

Visit the Salt Lake Tribune on the web at www.sltrib.com.

Dr. Michael Easley on Debates

“A favorite tactic of the fluorophobics is to argue for a debate so that ‘the people can decide who is right.’ Proponents of fluoride are often trapped into consenting to public debates.”

“Debates give the illusion that a scientific controversy exists when no credible people support the fluorophobics’ view.”

“Like parasites, opponents steal undeserved credibility just by sharing the stage with respected scientists who are there to defend fluoridation”; and,

“Unfortunately, a most flagrant abuse of the public trust occasionally occurs when a physician or a dentist, for whatever personal reason, uses their professional standing in the community to argue against fluoridation, a clear violation of professional ethics, the principles of science and community standards of practice.”

(Easley is perhaps the most active lobbyist for fluoridation in the United States. Easley works closely with many state and federal public health officials, including those from the CDC’s Oral Health Division, and is also Director of the National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research http://fluoride.oralhealth.org

Letter from Clinton Ray Miller inviting proponents to debate:


Inasmuch as your organization is listed by the Salt Lake City/County Health Department as one that endorses fluoridation of the public water supplies in Utah, we would like to invite a representative of your group to share your perspective in a debate with Paul Connett, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University and an international speaker on fluoridation, on Saturday, September 16th in Salt Lake City at 4:00 pm.

Our purpose is to help provide information on fluoridation for the public, inasmuch as the residents of Salt Lake County will vote on this proposition in November. We would appreciate your participation and contribution to this process in a standard debate format by providing the reasons you feel fluoridation would benefit the citizens of Salt Lake County.

Will you please reply as soon as possible by faxing me at the following number. If we do not receive a response from your organization, we will assume and announce that you (1) continue to endorse fluoridation but choose not to debate, (2) do not officially endorse fluoridation.

We hope that you will join us in providing as broad a range of perspectives for the public as possible by your participation.

Thank you.

Very sincerely,

Clinton Ray Miller
Chairman, Utah Citizens Against Fluoridation
Fax: 801-288-1666
Phone: 801-288-1639

This letter was sent to the following (all of which are listed by Salt Lake City/County Health Department as endorsing fluoridation):

  • Salt Lake Valley Health Dept. – Tony Tidwell
  • Davis Co. Health Dept. – Beth Beck. Richard Harvey
  • Bear River Health Dept. – Ariel Thompson
  • Utah Department of Health
  • Primary Children’s Medical Center
  • Utah Dental Association
  • Utah Medical Association
  • Utah Dental Hygienists’ Association
  • Utah Dental Assistants Association
  • Utah Dental Lab Association
  • Utah Nurses Association
  • Utah School Nurses Association
  • Utah Environmental Health Association
  • Utah Public Health Association
  • Intermountain Health Care Executive Committee
  • Salt Lake Boys and Girls Club
  • Utah PTA
  • Utahns for Better Dental Health
  • National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research
  • State Senator D. Edgar Allen. MD
  • State Senator Peter Knudson, DDS
  • State Representative Katherine Bryson
  • State Representative Carl Saunders, DDS

The reply Letters

September 5, 2000

Dear Mr. Miller,

I am sorry but I will not be able to debate on Saturday, September 16th as I will be out of town. I am also not interested in debating at a future date.

Thank You,

Beth Q. Beck, Ed.D
(Chairwoman, Davis County Board of Health)

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September 9, 2000

Utah Dental Hygienists’ Association

Dear Sir:

I regret to inform you we will not be able to participate in this debate. Our organization goes on record as one that supports water fluoridation. All of our Board of Trustees will be attending our Annual Session and Installation Luncheon of new officers September 15 & 16.

Judith Evans, RDH, BS
UDHA President

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September 11, 2000

Utah Children

Dear Mr. Miller,

Due to the short notice regarding the fluoridation debate you have scheduled for September 16, Utah Children regrets that we cannot participate.

The Utah-Children Board endorses a vote in favor of fluoridation. Studies demonstrate decreased incidence of cavities and decay among persons — especially children — living in areas with fluoridated water. Tooth decay and missing teeth are huge barriers to good nutrition and general health. While there are significant expenses of treating water systems, it is a less expensive way to deliver the benefits of fluoride to al residents of a community.

Thank you for announcing our support for this initiative.

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September 12, 2000

Utah Public Health Association

Dear Mr. Miller,

You are correct that the Utah Public Health Association endorses fluoridation of the public water supplies in Utah. However, our Association will not be able to be present in a debate on September 16.


Beverly Hyatt Roach
Utah Public Health Association

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September 12, 2000

Utah Medical Association

Dear Mr. Miller,

Thank you for your invitation to participate in a debate with Paul Connett, Ph.D. on Saturday, September 16th. We respectfully decline to participate in your event. You should also know that for years the Utah Medical Association has endorsed fluoridation of public water and continues to do so.


J. Leon Sorenson
Executive Vice President

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September 12, 2000

Dear Mr. Miller,

I enjoyed speaking with you this morning. It was nice to get better acquainted.

As I have told you, for me to agree to debate Dr. Connett or others, I need to feel comfortable that the format is fair and the subject matter is reasonable. We discussed possible moderators and I have learned that Fluoridation will be discussed in a format set by The League of Women Voters. I have decided that this is a much better venue for discussions on Fluoride and presentations are being prepared by the group for this venue. Furthermore, with Dr. Connett being a chemist it would be best for him to discuss this with a colleague who is also a chemist.

In the meantime I am gathering primary articles as best I can though as I have discussed with you so far I have not been satisfied with what I have been able to get.

Considering the time constraints and the constraints of my prior committments, I will have to decline your invitation. Hopefully you will be able to find somebody else in time for what you have planned for this coming weekend.

Again thank you for visiting with me.

Sincerely yours,

D. Edgar Allen, M.D.
(State Senator)
Senate District 18

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September 14, 2000

Utah Dental Assistants Administration

Mr. Miller,

Thank you for the invitation to the debate on fluoridation. I am sorry to say that due to prior committments, none of the UDAA board members will be able to attend. If we had received notice sooner we probably would have been able to participate.

As to our position on fluoridation, we have always upheld the belief that fluoridation is one of the most effective ways of promoting and maintaining good oral health. It is available to everyone regardless of income level or insurance coverage.

Once again, we are sorry that we will not be able to attend.


Cathy S. Neeley CDA
President. Utah Dental Assistants Administration

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September 15, 2000

Utah Dental Association

The Utah Dental Association comprises 1,257 dentists, approximately 82% of the practicing dentists in the State.

* We endorse the optimal fluoridation of community water supplies as a safe and effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay.

* We urge that its benefits be extended to communities served by public water systems.

* It is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health over a lifetime.

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September 15, 2000

Utah Department of Health

Dear Mr. Miller,

Thank you for your invitation to debate Dr. Paul Connett on Saturday, September 16. Even though we are declining the invitation to debate, we would like to reaffirm our position on water fluoridation. The Utah Department of Health recognizes the public health benefits of community water fluoridation for preventing dental-decay. Reliable scientific data consistently confirm the safety, effectiveness, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and environmental compatibility of community water fluoridation.


Steven J. Steed, D.D.S.
State Dental Director

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Dr Anthony Tidwell on Debates:

“I don’t think the antis have any right to even be on the podium because their arguments are so asinine. All they do is stir up fear and questions, and they can put out as many questions as they want but we can only bat so many back.” A debate “may put doubts in people’s minds.” Deseret News Sept 2, 2000

“Every time we get on stage, they get a chance to propagate anything they want,” Tidwell said. “All they have to do is create doubt in people’s minds.” Salt Lake Tribune Sept 15, 2000

“People who are against fluoride won’t change their minds through debate, but people who are for it might when they are presented with information that creates doubt in their minds. I don’t want to let you create doubt in their minds.” After State Senate Hearing, Aug 16, 2000

Note: Tidwell’s own understanding of how fluoride works, highlights the importance of having debates. Recently on KSL-TV Channel 5 News in Utah, Tidwell was quoted as saying “IF WE CAN GIVE IT OUT TO CHILDREN AT A YOUNG AGE, EVEN FROM BIRTH…THEN WE CAN GET THE TEETH TO COME IN MUCH STRONGER FROM THE INSIDE.” This belief, however, that fluoride strengthens developing teeth after being swallowed, is now recognized by the dental research community, and the CDC, to be mistaken. For instance, according to the cover article of the July 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, “The fluoride incorporated developmentally – that is, systemically into the normal tooth mineral- is insufficient to have a measurable effect on acid solubility”. As the article further pointed out, “Fluoride, the key agent in battling caries, works primarily via topical mechanisms.”

The public has all the reason in the world to be upset when public health officials make fundamental errors concerning the chemical they promote for public ingestion.


Featherstone, J.D.B. (2000). The Science and Practice of Caries Prevention. Journal of the American Dental Association.131, 887-899.