Calgary’s new city council reopened the fluoride debate this week, throwing the floor open to the public to weigh in. Luckily, I’m not on city council and therefore obliged to listen to the conspiracy theorists who flock to such meetings in tinfoil hats, swearing they are receiving radio messages from the ether.
It continues to this day, despite sound medical advice and the lifelong “experimentation” of people like me. We are the citizens deprived of fluoridated water as infants and toddlers whose childhood nightmares were flooded with repeated visits to various dentists because, at that time, enough fluoride to promote dental health was not available in Calgary’s water.
Dentistry has improved considerably over the past 60 years, so my night terrors no longer feature me strapped to a dentist’s chair with a noisy, smelly drill rasping like an angry hornet against my teeth. Indeed, I rather like my dentist.
As a child, I had no access to fluoride toothpaste, supplemental treatments or city water with enough of a level of fluoride to make any difference in the health of my teeth.
As a result, I had more cavities than any child today could imagine. And no, it wasn’t because I was hooked on sweetened pop, fruit juice or candy. Count me among the sheer unlucky — living in a city that didn’t deliver any of the considerable health benefits of naturally-occurring fluoride and already on a dentist’s radar thanks to having been born with two fully erupted bottom teeth, much to every-one’s surprise, especially my mother.
I am firmly in the pro-fluoride camp, seeing no reason not to be. If I have to pick a “side,” I’ll listen to the experts who do not include anyone who rails against “poison” in the water or, like General Jack Ripper in the 1964 classic film, Dr. Strangelove, insists: “fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face.”
The modern phenomenon of the unedited and untrammelled Internet has put all such conspiracy theories in the public eye, with the added disadvantage of giving every opinion the same weight — loony science or not. Still, one can avoid being sucked into the vortex by only believing medical opinions given by well-established institutions. Be wary of groups such as the Fluoride Action Network, the New York State Coalition Opposed To Fluoridation, or UK Against Fluoridation, although their names indicate their opposition.
Just as I support vaccinations for everyone, out of experience and sound medical advice, I support the public health benefits of fluoridated water. And I do both for the most personal of reasons: I’ve had all those childhood diseases, from whooping cough to polio, all of which have almost been rendered historical oddities, thanks to modern medicine and research.
Only conspiracy theorists and their ilk fail to take advantage of the most modern of miracles — an almost guaranteed long life, notwithstanding childhood accidents. (The saddest of these groups are those who still believe vaccinations cause autism, despite the recent unmasking of the faulty and prejudiced “research” that gave rise to this notion. They continue to put their children at risk.)
If Calgary city council wants to discuss the level of fluoridation, that’s moot: Even the U.S. Centers For Disease Control, the body that listed water fluoridation as one of the “10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century,” is open to such discussions, given the prevalence of fluoride treatments and toothpaste with additives. But reducing the level of fluoride does not mean removing it entirely.
If the point of Calgary city council wanting to reopen this debate is the cost of adding fluoride to the water, they need to give their collective heads a shake. Most health authorities agree that the most cost-effective, inexpensive and simplest way of delivering oral health to all children remains fluoridation of the public water supply.
This tired debate has been going on since the first plebiscite went down to defeat in 1957, as did subsequent plebiscites in 1961, 1966 and 1971. It wasn’t until 1989 that the vote succeeded, with fluoridation beginning in 1991.
That was too late for my generation and too late for the baby boomers. For those who insist their children have mottled teeth because of fluoridation, consider that it’s a cosmetic issue, not a health one.
And the cost of cosmetic dentistry on otherwise healthy teeth is a onetime investment, opposed to a lifetime of trying to fix what lack of fluoride encouraged.
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