Reading the recent letter to the editor from Dr. Staples and Dr. Kanelos, “About Fluoride” (April 25), was like stepping into a cognitive dissonance machine. With all due respect to their training and skill as dental professionals, the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that, in this matter, they are wrong.

Their claim that investing $1 in fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs is a commonly parroted point taken from a 2001 paper in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry by Griffin et al. The authors of that study inflated the benefits of water fluoridation, and they allowed for $18 per hour lost pay for time off work. But not all people lose pay when they visit a dentist. Further, the authors ignored the costs of side effects, such as dental fluorosis, which has reached epidemic proportions (a point recently recognized by the Centers for Disease Control — hence their recommendation to lower the amount of fluoride in drinking water and not give fluoridated water to infants). Cosmetic treatment for a single affected tooth can reach $1,000.

The other claim is even more egregious. Lacing water with fluoride is categorically not like fortifying milk with vitamin D, salt with iodine, or orange juice with calcium. Vitamin D, iodine, and calcium are nutrients required by the body. Fluoride is not. There is absolutely no human metabolic requirement for fluoride — and rightly so, because it is toxic even at very low doses. It is also a cumulative poison that builds up over time.

Belief in the efficacy of fluoride by dentists seems almost religious in nature, which no evidence to the contrary, no matter how well documented, seems able to change. But medicine is a scientific endeavor. Scientists are supposed to change their minds when presented with compelling evidence that contradicts their previously held beliefs. I, too, once believed that water fluoridation prevented cavities. But after a friend advised me to conduct my own research rather than accept uncritically the conventional wisdom, it didn’t take long for me to see that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

When the rate of tooth decay in both fluoridated and unfluorinated populations is identical, it is simply not scientifically possible to conclude that fluoride prevents cavities. I don’t know why this very salient fact is consistently ignored, other than it just doesn’t jibe with a firmly held, almost religious belief in fluoride’s magical powers. It is also not possible to tout the safety of water fluoridation when the compound used is hazardous waste from the phosphate fertilizer industry, for which absolutely no safety studies have been done.

The old adage about “follow the money” applies here, too. Eliminating water fluoridation would have a substantial negative monetary impact on several industries, especially the phosphate fertilizer industry, which would have to pay to dispose of its waste instead of making money by selling it. On the other hand, I don’t have any money at stake. I’m just tired of hauling bottled water (which has its own problems) to avoid drinking something that I know is poisonous.

I must agree with Dr. Heller who, in his April 26 response to the Staples/Kanelos letter, suggested that dentists promoting fluoridation should do their due diligence and not simply parrot what they were told in dental school. I respectfully suggest Drs. Staples and Kanelos start with the meticulously researched book, The Fluoride Deception, by Christopher Bryson.