As promised, I’ve done a quick scan through the science literature in relation to water fluoridation across communities with different levels of treatment.
McDonagh et al. (2000) Systematic review of water fluoridation. BMJ. 321 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7265.855
This paper is a great one. Not only does it look at the evidence collected by a wide range of previous studies, it also looks at the quality of those datasets. Some of the low grade papers indeed found positive and negative increases in the rate of cancers (ie. more or less) where fluoride treatment took place. All in all, the only real detrimental impact discovered that held any weight was dental fluorosis, although still the rates of fluorosis varied wildly across the studies.
Dini et al. (2011) Comparison of two indices of caries patterns in 3-6 year old Brazilian children from areas with different fluoridation histories. IDJ. 48. doi: 10.1111/j.1875-595X.1998.tb.00700.x
The authors only looked at the teeth in this study, but it is of no surprise what they found; less tooth decay where fluoridation of drinking supply had covered the community for the longest period.
Whelton (2012) Monitoring the effectiveness of water fluoridation in the Republic of Ireland. Journal of Irish Dental Association. http://hdl.handle.net/10147/236475
Again, tooth decay down, mild fluorosis up. Suggestions include reducing the target amount of fluoride in water from 0.9ppm to 0.7ppm and concerns about the possibility of young children swallowing fluoride toothpaste, which gives them higher doses when they are more susceptible to developing fluorosis.
Chachra et al. (2010) The Long-term Effects of Water Fluoridation on the Human Skeleton. JDR. 89 (11) doi: 10.1177/0022034510376070
The authors here looked at exposure of fluoride on the skeleton. They used bone samples from fluoridated Toronto and from non-fluoridated Montreal to test for likelihood of fracture. In short, they found no discernible difference over the natural variation between individuals (ie. genetics, lifestyle and diet factors).
This one is similar to the McDonagh et al. (2000) above in that it reviews the quality of previous studies, to a similar affect; fluoridation improves tooth health with the only real negative impact being some cases of fluorosis.
I cannot help but conclude from this quick review that the anti-fluoridation crowd are enthusiasts. They have latched onto a small subject and inflated it beyond all measure. It doesn’t help that fluoridation does indeed have a deep murky socialistic conspiracy past, noting the Chinese fluoride paranoia expressed by Jason Woodforth.
From what I found in Charchra et al. (2010) and on other anti-fluoride sites, talking about fluorosis as a severely detrimental pressure on self-esteem, especially in younger people, I couldn’t help but make a conclusion (and the following, I hope is read by the anti-fluoride fans); this whole hysteria is so pathetically small, when much larger problems exist that cause significant social degradation. Think obesity, drug abuse, inequality, violence and mental health; these things kill people in the millions each year. A youth bullied in the school yard and then at home via the internet. The overweight parents, with two obese children, heading through the checkouts with bottles of fizzy, packages of process food and not a scrap of fresh fruit or vegetables (a sight I saw everyday as an undergrad working in retail). A single mother who cannot afford dental for herself. The isolated alcoholic that the world simple forgot. The waste of food while others starve.
And I’m expected to think a handful of cases of mild tooth discolouration demands so much time and enthusiasm?
Yes, the science concludes that you should watch your child’s intake of fluoride, most notably through ensuring they do not swallow tooth paste or mouth wash. However, with some communities now living with multiple generations of fluoridation cover, where are the masses of dead or dying stupid individuals ruined by fluoride?
On the other hand, we know what obesity, cigarettes, alcohol and illegal drugs do and how many people they are killing. Choose a better target.