Fluoride Action Network

The NIDCR: a little background

Fluoride Action Network | March 2022 | By Ellen Connett

In 1998, the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) was renamed the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

The NIDCR is a staunchly pro-fluoridation federal agency. It is the major funding source for dental research in the US. It has funded hundreds of studies on fluoride, but only one human study on fluoride’s neurotoxicity, which was the Broadbent et al. 2015 New Zealand IQ study. While there are currently 74 studies reporting an association between fluoride exposure and lowered IQ, the Broadbent study is one of 9 studies that found no correlation.

The American Dental Association sponsored the bill to create the NIDR.

According to Philippe P. Hujoel: “The ADA [American Dental Association] sponsored the bill to create the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR)… This institute would become credited with motivating 17 countries to fluoridate their water, for training hundreds of foreign dental scientists, and for funding research in 7 foreign countries. The New York Times described the first two NIDR directors as fluoride pioneers (there were 4 such recognized fluoride pioneers) [67,68]. These NIDR directors’ were ADA members and had a long prior history of research on fluorides and micro-organisms [69]. The term fluoride appears extensively in the index of a book on the 20th century history of NIDR…”
Ref: How a Nutritional Deficiency Became Treated with Fluoride, Nutrients, 2021.

The NIDCR has a huge budget to fund hundreds of studies each year. For 2023 the proposed budget is $513.2 million.

The continuous funding to university researchers, the journals they publish in, and the five university centers identified below, can influence strong partisanship to NIDCR’s positions, and in the case of fluoride, to their staunch promotion of fluoridation.

• See NIDCR’s funding to U.S. Academic and Dental institutions from 2003-2021.

See here for some of the hundreds of studies that NIDCR funded.

In 2001 the NIDCR sponsored the establishment of five Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities based at:

• Boston University
• New York University
• University of Michigan
• University of Washington
• University of California (San Francisco)

According to Milgrom et al., 2004,

[These centers] represent one of the largest financial commitments ever made by the NIDCR. The centers are sponsored in part by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, or NCMHHD. Each of the five centers has forged partnerships that include ties with dental societies, state and local health agencies, community and migrant health centers, American Indian tribal nations and institutions that serve other diverse patient populations.”

In 2014,  NIDCR together with the NIH launched the Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Research Consortium to Reduce Oral Health Disparities in Children: Data Coordinating Center. See more here and  here.

NIDR protected the interests of the sugar industry to the detriment of children’s teeth

The NIDR promoted a National Caries Program (NCP) in 1971. According to a 2015 study by Kearns et al. (2015):

The sugar industry’s “cultivation of relationships with the NIDR leadership, consulting of members on an NIDR expert panel, and submission of a report to the NIDR that became the foundation of the first request for proposals issued for the NCP [National Caries Program]. Seventy-eight percent of the sugar industry submission was incorporated into the NIDR’s call for research applications. Research that could have been harmful to sugar industry interests was omitted from priorities identified at the launch of the NCP…”

“… Reflecting the research priorities of the sugar industry, the 1971 NCP research priorities ignored strategies to limit sugar consumption and focused instead on fluoride delivery, reducing the virulence of oral bacteria, and modifying food products with additives to counter sugar’s harmful effects [30].

“… When reflecting on the NCP in 1990, Basil Bibby, a member of the Caries Task Force Steering Committee, noted that the NIDR approved only “one or two small research grants” related to food cariogenicity compared to the “hundreds of generous awards [that] were made for investigations with so-called high scientific content” [79]. He also noted that since the NIDR was the major funding source for dental research in the US, “the failure of the National Institute for Dental Research to support research on foods meant that there was no group of investigators in the United States who had enough financial support to undertake significant research on food cariogenicity” [79]. (our emphasis)
Reference: Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research’s 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents

The Forsyth Institute, Phyllis Mullenix, and the rat study that effectively banned her from working in academia

Phyllis Mullenix was hired as Chair of Toxicology at the Forysth Dental Center, now known as the Forsyth Institute, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1982. Forsyth is one of the most prestigious dental research institutes in the US and is affiliated with the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Mullenix was hired by Forsyth to study the neurotoxic effects of chemicals commonly used in dentistry. The NIDR (predesessor to the NIDCR) were highly invested in the Institute, and according to the Harvard Gazette, Forsyth received the most grant money, $12.1 million, that NIDCR gave out in 2003.

In The Fluoride Deception (2004), the author Chris Bryson describes the circumstances of how Dr. Phyllis Mullenix was fired for her prescient study, Neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats, published in 1995, and the reactions of the NIDCR and NIH to it. Below is a short excerpt, but one can read the full story starting with chapter 1, Through the Looking Glass and chapter 2, Fireworks at Forsyth online here.

The Fluoride Deception (2004) by Chris Bryson


In an e-mail sent to me on July 19, 2002, Dr. Robert H. Selwitz of the same agency wrote that he was “not aware of any follow-up studies” nor were the potential CNS effects of fluoride “a topic of primary focus” for government grant givers. Dr. Selwitz is the Senior Dental Epidemiologist and Director of the Residency Program in Dental Public Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH. At first he appeared to suggest that the Mullenix study [Neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats] had little relevance for human beings, telling me that her rats were “fed fluoride at levels as high as 175 times the concentration found in fluoridated drinking water.”

But his statement was subtly misleading. Rats and humans have very different metabolisms, and in laboratory experiments these differences must be compensated for. The critical measurement in studying effects on the central nervous system is not how much fluoride is given to the laboratory animals but how much of the chemical, after they drink it, subsequently appears in the animals’ blood. The amount of fluoride in the blood of the Mullenix rats—a measurement known as the blood serum level—had been the equivalent of what would appear in the blood of a human drinking about 5 parts per million of fluoride in water. This, of course, is just five times the level the government suggests is “optimal” for fluoridated water-1 ppm. I asked Dr. Selwitz, therefore, if it was fair to portray the Mullenix rats as having drunk “175 times” the amount of fluoride that citizens normally consume from fluoridated water.

Wasn’t the “blood serum” measurement and comparison more relevant? Wasn’t his statement, inadvertently at least, misleading?

Dr. Selwitz, who had just been ready to dispense medical arguments and implied reassurances as to why Mullenix’s research was not relevant to human beings, now explained that he could not answer my question.

“The questions you are asking in your recent e-mail message involve the field of fluoride physiology,” wrote the senior dental epidemiologist at NIDCR. “This subject is not my area of expertise

From their website

Important Events in NIDCR History

1931 — The U.S. Public Health Service created a Dental Hygiene Unit at NIH and designated Dr. H. Trendley Dean as the first dental research worker. His primary function was to apply principles of epidemiology to a series of community studies on the oral disease known as mottled enamel. His research on fluoride showed not only its relation to mottled enamel, but also its influence on tooth decay.

1945 — Following fluoridation of the water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, annual examinations of children were begun to study the effects of fluoride on the development of dental caries.

1948 — On June 24, Public Law 80-755, the National Dental Research Act created the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) and the National Advisory Dental Research Council. On September 16, the institute was established.

1949 — The first meeting of the National Advisory Dental Research Council was held on January 10. The institute-supported grants program was initiated, and the first grants and fellowships were awarded.

1954 — Results of the first 10 years of the Grand Rapids study firmly established water fluoridation as a safe, effective, and economical procedure for the control of dental caries.

See their website at https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/