Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation (IDOF), comprising 61 dentists, have decided to boycott VHI/Decare insurance products following alarming comments by Dr. Gerard Gavin, Chief Dental Officer (Decare) on TV3’s Ireland Am last Tuesday. An extraordinary meeting of the dentist’s group held at the weekend reviewed a transcript of the broadcast and decided that Dr. Gavin’s recommendations relating to fluoride toothpaste were misleading and likely to cause harm to Irish children.

At the meeting, VHI/Decare was condemned for using half-baked public health information to peddle new insurance products. IDOF reaffirmed their concern for patient safety and the large levels of fluoride consumed by the Irish population from all sources. Fluoride tooth damage is on the increase within our practices and dental fluorosis now affects nearly 50% of all children and teenagers. Therefore, IDOF slammed VHI/Decare’s failure to highlight the health hazards of swallowing fluoride toothpaste, especially young children.

On the programme, Dr. Gavin referred to the use of fluoride toothpaste in 2-7 year olds. He stated that, “it’s very important that you retain, particularly for the older age group, retain more fluoride in the mouth and if you don’t spit out, particularly, you can spit out but not rinse out, if you rinse out you wash all the fluoride out and the whole idea is to try and keep the level of fluoride in the saliva as high as possible for as long as possible”. Holding fluoride in the mouth as Dr. Gavin prescribes is a huge risk for dental fluorosis as it encourages swallowing fluoride toothpaste. In 1996, Colgate paid out £1000 in the UK to a child with fluoride damaged teeth and the Forum on Fluoridation recently confirmed that “swallowing one-quarter of a (toothpaste) tube could be life-threatening for a one-year old child”.

Dr. Don Mac Auley, commented, “this type of misinformation is very alarming. Fluoride toothpaste is damaging our kids and not advising this age group to rinse out toothpaste after brushing is dangerous. Two to seven year olds have poor control over their swallowing reflex and will likely swallow most of the toothpaste. The US recognises these health risks and has a poison warning required by law on all toothpaste. Unfortunately in Ireland we also have fluoride in the water so our kids are already getting too much fluoride. We believe there will be more signs of fluoride poisoning and recommend that children under seven should NOT use fluoride toothpaste at all”.

In addition, Decare’s advice appears to ignore the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration which, since 1997, demands a poison warning on all fluoride toothpaste. This warning declares, “Keep out of reach of children under six years of age. If you swallow more than used for brushing then seek professional advice or contact a poison control center immediately”.

Even international pro-fluoride organisations contradict Dr. Gavin and recognise the health risks, the Centre for Disease Control in the US, says, “fluoride toothpaste contributes to the risk for enamel fluorosis because the swallowing reflex of children aged under 6 years is not always well controlled” and the Community Health Services in Canada recommends, “children should be encouraged not to swallow toothpaste, to spit out excess toothpaste and rinse well after brushing”.

In addition, the VHI is also misinforming the public regarding infant’s use of toothpaste. The VHI website recommends that children use fluoride toothpaste from the age of 10 months while Dr. Gavin concedes that children “under two years of age shouldn’t really use toothpaste at all”. With such confusion and misinformation IDOF feel they cannot endorse these companies and for our patient’s safety we intend to boycott their insurance products.

For further information contact: Dr. Don Mac Auley 046 9021203