A religious-type fervour continues to keep some people committed to putting fluoride in water supplies, American chemistry lecturer and anti-fluoride campaigner Paul Connett said in Timaru yesterday.
He said there was rational scientific argument that fluoride did not achieve the results against tooth decay that dental associations and some governments said they did.
“Firstly, the benefits of fluoride are topical, not systematic, yet they say we must ingest the fluoride and flood our system with it.
“Studies show that if there is any benefit from fluoride it is by being applied directly to the teeth. The best way to do that is by brushing it on in toothpaste where you can spit it out again.”
Dr Connett said he would rather that fluoride was not used at all, especially with young children who tended to swallow it.
He said in the United States, toothpastes came with a warning that it should be kept away from six-year-old children, and that if a child swallowed the toothpaste they should be taken to a poison centre.
Dr Connett said fluoride was known as a toxin and it did not make sense to put it into the body.
He said when fluoride was ingested, 50 per cent of it was stored in the bones, a small percentage in the pineal gland in the centre of the brain, a minute amount ended up in saliva, and the rest was excreted.
“It is that tiny bit in the saliva that is believed to have an effect on tooth decay because it kills the bacteria.”
Dr Connett said that in parts of Scandinavia, Xylitol toothpaste was being used to combat tooth decay.
It is derived from pine bark and is believed to work by killing the bacteria as well.
He said there had been a suggestion it could cause liver failure – – though the Scandinavians had been using it happily for 20 years — so he was not promoting it be introduced, only that these were the types of things governments should be testing if they wanted to safely combat tooth decay.
Dr Connett said studies showed a biological possibility that fluoride could be connected to alzheimers, osteo-arthritis and early puberty.
He was not saying there was conclusive scientific evidence, only there was a possibility and it was wrong for governments to want people to ingest a substance until it was proven one way or the other.
Dr Connett said that while some people argued that dental fluorosis, the mottling of teeth, was just a superficial problem, that was not the case.
He also castigated the pro-fluoride people invited to debate the subject with him at a meeting in Timaru last night but who had declined.
Dr Connett said if they had the scientific data to back up the claims they should have welcomed the opportunity.