Fluoridation and tooth decay

The main purpose of this page is to help you understand why fluoride in drinking water has completely failed as a cavity prevention technique for teeth. The other purpose of this page is to help you understand why diet and whole food nutritional supplementation are more effective and safer as cavity fighters for your teeth. The topic of fluoride treatments by dentists and dental hygienists is not discussed on this website.

This page describes the strange story and history of water fluoridation in detail. If you do not have time to read the entire page, at least read the short summary that starts with the next paragraph.

In 1945 the United States Public Health Service, based on ill-conceived and seriously flawed studies, began fluoridation of drinking water in Grand Rapids Michigan. Since then, state and federal health agencies have been enthusiastically promoting fluoridation of drinking water. So has the dental profession, which continues to teach that artificial fluoridation of drinking water is a scientifically proven, effective solution for tooth decay. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. When carefully examined, these early studies failed to prove that fluoridation either prevents or reduces cavities. To this day there still isn’t any good evidence, scientific or otherwise, to support the contention that fluoridation of drinking water works.

The sad reality is that fluoridation of drinking water has resulted in the completely uncontrolled exposure of humans of all ages to the very toxic chemical, fluoride — without providing any benefit. There are actually numerous scientific studies that demonstrate significant harm from fluoride in drinking water. Some of the most recent studies clearly reveal lowered IQ in children!

Whether you realize or not, fluoridation of drinking water is forced medical treatment. It is the only chemical added to our drinking water for a purpose other than making it safe to drink.

With all that in mind, many communities in the United States have stopped the implementation of water fluoridation. Other communities are having second thoughts. Isn’t it time we discontinued all fluoridation of drinking water?

The peculiar history of artificial water fluoridation

Very few of us realize that the concept of chemically medicating your drinking water is unique to dentistry. Before the introduction of fluoride, the only chemicals purposely added to your drinking water were those intended to make it safe to drink. Fluoride does just the opposite. With the introduction of water fluoridation, what had previously been sensible public health policy became a policy that subjects many people to unnecessary health risks while offering little if any benefit. So let’s take a good look at the curious history of fluoride in drinking water.

It all started like this. Early settlers of Colorado Springs, Colorado, had the strangest looking teeth. Some were yellow, light brown or an ugly dark brown while others were ragged with holes in the enamel. The mildest discolorations were chalky and paper white. In the early 1900’s, the discolorations were called “Colorado Brown Stain” or mottled enamel. Although the discolored teeth looked ugly, they usually had fewer cavities than normal looking teeth.

By 1909, two early dental researchers who were aware of Colorado Brown Stain, Dr. Frederick McKay and Dr. Greene Vardiman Black, started working together studying this peculiar dental condition in Colorado. Because they were dentists, they especially noticed that the discolored teeth resisted tooth decay.

Dr. McKay continued his research after Dr. Black died in 1915. Dr. McKay suspected that something in the water was causing the brown stain. But test after test failed to identify the critical substance. Finally, by 1931, the discolorations known as Colorado Brown Stain were traced to the drinking water, which contained high concentrations of the element fluorine, in the form of calcium fluoride. The fluorine came form the mineral cryolite, which was abundant in the Pike’s Peak region of Colorado and would wash out during the runoff of rain and snowstorms. At last, after twenty-two years of investigation, Dr. McKay finally had the solution and the answer to the cause of Colorado Brown Stain.† ​

One result of this scientific discovery was that scientists, finally knowing what caused Colorado Brown Stain, renamed the condition, dental fluorosis, or simply, fluorosis. Because of its appearance, it was also called mottled enamel. ​

Dental Fluorosis, even mild fluorosis, is a visible sign of fluoride exposure and accumulation of the fluoride in all the hard tissues of your body, especially your teeth and bones. Since fluoride is a poisonous chemical element, dental fluorosis is also an unmistakable sign of chronic fluoride poisoning.

This is what mild, moderate and severe dental fluorosis or mottled enamel looks like. It can make teeth look quite ugly. The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) website has more photos showing how damaging fluoride can be to your teeth.

How did fluoride become known as a cavity preventer?

Up to this time, Dr. Frederick McKay was on the right track. He had discovered that fluoride was the cause of the Colorado Brown Stain. But Dr. McKay had not discovered the cause of the resistance to tooth decay associated with Colorado Brown Stain.

However, other researchers studying Colorado Brown Stain made the assumption that the same fluoride that caused Colorado Brown Stain had to also be responsible for the fewer cavities and unusual resistance to tooth decay. Tooth decay was very common at this time and no one had a solution for preventing it. Suddenly, fluoride looked like the long sought after answer.

Please keep in mind that this was strictly an assumption and not a tested, proven, scientific finding. It was essentially scientific speculation, sometimes called a hypothesis. The researchers overlooked, or didn’t know that there were other possible causes besides fluoride for the apparent scarcity of tooth decay. They didn’t realize that the waters in Colorado where Colorado Brown Stain was prevalent were also calcium and magnesium rich, minerals that contribute to strong, healthy bones and teeth, and therefore would have helped reduce cavities.

The story is not over yet. In 1935, Dr. Henry T. Dean, a dentist with the United States Public health Service, also studied tooth decay and fluorosis, this time in residents of various Texas communities. He determined, from his studies of water naturally contaminated with fluoride that a low concentration of fluoride in drinking water would not cause the brown tooth mottling of dental fluorosis. Dr. Dean concluded that at a concentration of one part per million, fluoride in water would only cause mild enamel fluorosis in a small number of people, and not cause any tooth discoloration in most people.

Like most other dental researchers of his time, Dr. Dean believed that fluoride, besides causing dental fluorosis, also protected teeth against cavities. He evidently assumed that somehow, when naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water was ingested and then incorporated into teeth as they developed in the jaw bone, it made them more resistant to tooth decay. He just didn’t know exactly how it happened. If it worked with water that naturally contained fluoride, then presumably, he reasoned, the same result would happen if the fluoride was intentionally added to drinking water that didn’t contain fluoride.

Up to this point in time, everything was essentially unproven hypothesis, except the reasonably proven connection between fluoride in drinking water and the unwanted appearance of dental fluorosis. We now know that even one part per million of fluoride in drinking water creates dental fluorosis in many more children than originally believed.

Why some people were made the unwitting subjects of a risky experiment.

By 1939, Dr. Dean proposed to his colleagues at the U. S. Public Health Service the idea of using fluoride to prevent tooth decay by adding it to drinking water to the one part per million level he already thought was biologically and cosmetically safe. It wouldn’t cause any health risks and it would only cause minimal dental fluorosis. At least, that is what he believed.

This was a scientific hypothesis or assumption that finally, had to be tested. In today’s world, animal studies would always be done first. However, this was 1939. Not surprisingly, some of the incentive to put fluoride in drinking water also came from the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) which was interested because the processing of aluminum yielded large quantities of toxic fluoride waste, and they were looking for a way to dispose of it profitably.

Thus, with the approval of the U. S. Public Health Service and other public health agencies, human experiments with fluoridation began. In contrast to modern research, animal studies were never done. In effect, the safety of adding fluoride to drinking water was never tested.

On January 25, 1945, without any previous testing for safety, sodium fluoride was added to a water supply for the first time, to presumably decrease dental decay. This was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nearby Muskegon acted as the non-fluoridated control.

The reason for having a control, in this case a similar city without fluoridation, was to make sure that it was the fluoride, and not something else in the water that was preventing or reducing cavities. If, during the study, cavities were also reduced in the non-fluoridated control city, then obviously, it couldn’t be the fluoride that was doing this. It would have to be something else, which would then have to be tested, just like the fluoride. Without a control city, it would be impossible to scientifically prove that fluoride decreased tooth decay, and any claim that it did would be scientifically invalid.

This study was planned to last 15 years. But, after only five years, Muskegon health officials demanded the same fluoride “benefits” as Grand Rapids, because the rate of tooth decay in young adults in Grand Rapids had shown some decline.

Public health officials made available to the public only the results from fluoridated Grand Rapids. Together with dentists, they ignored the fact that there was a similar decline in tooth decay in young adults in non-fluoridated Muskegon. Although there was essentially no distinction between the reduced tooth decay rates in the two cities, dentists and public health officials began to heavily promote water fluoridation. So Muskegon became fluoridated well before the experiment was supposed to have ended.

In effect, when Muskegon insisted on, and got fluoridation, the city no longer acted as the control for the experiment. The study became uncontrolled before it was finished, which basically ended the experiment well before it could prove anything about the fluoridation of public water. It certainly failed to prove that fluoridation was effective as a means to control tooth decay.

There were other paired cities, such as Newburgh and Kingston, New York that conducted human experiments with artificially added water fluoridation. Dr. David Ast, the New York State Dental Director started a ten-year fluoridation experiment. On May 2, 1945, upstate Newburgh’s water supply was artificially fluoridated to one part per million leaving Kingston non-fluoridated as a control to compare results. Again, no animal tests or experiments were first conducted, to determine if the amount of fluoride added to the drinking water was even safe for human consumption.

Public health officials observed a drop in tooth decay in Newburg, the fluoridated city. After only five years into the experiment, fluoridation was declared a success in Newburgh, even though the experiment was supposed to last ten years, so that the permanent teeth of children born into the experiment could eventually be examined. Adults who drank the experimental potion were never even studied. Once again, from a scientific standpoint, the Newburg – Kingston experiment, like the Grand Rapids – Muskegon study, ended before it could prove anything.

Apparently, most local public health officials, didn’t care if the existing science supporting water fluoridation was faulty. Compared to today’s standards, the science was crude. By 1947, officials in several other cities started water fluoridation on a study basis. Dentists began to get on the bandwagon, claiming that fluoride stopped tooth decay. Because of political pressure, in 1950, the United States Public Health Service finally endorsed fluoridation. The American Dental Association soon followed while the Grand Rapids – Muskegon and Newburgh – Kingston fluoridation experimental trials were still in progress.

Think about this. The American Dental Association endorsed artificial water fluoridation well before it was possible to come to any meaningful scientific conclusions about the then current studies! When these studies are carefully re-examined, which has been done, it becomes clear that they all failed to prove that artificial water fluoridation stops or reduces tooth decay.

In spite of all this lack of scientific support, artificial fluoridation of drinking water still continues to be taught in all the dental schools in the United States as a scientifically proven, effective solution for tooth decay.

Curiously, once a community has accepted water fluoridation, the dental profession in general, and the American Dental Society in particular, essentially wash their hands of any involvement in the actual process of fluoridating the water supply. In spite of their enthusiastic support of water fluoridation, the cost to the public, the risks to the personnel at the water treatment facilities, and the mechanics of actually adding fluoride to the community water supplies seems to be of no interest to them.

There is plenty of additional science and research available. You can find it on the website of Fluoride Action Network (FAN).