I was sitting around complaining about pseudoscience and general quackery (a celebrated past time of mine) when the idea for this column hit me like a metric ton of proverbial apples. Just as the headline suggests, the purpose of science is to understand the unknown. This column will explore the gray areas of misunderstood science, illuminate bullshit through critical reasoning, and show how detrimental fraudulent science can be.
Onward to a skeptical understanding of material reality!
Water fluoridation has been called a communist plot to undermine our health and described as a scheme by the nuclear industry to dispose of its waste. Nonetheless, the majority of scientific evidence maintains that it is a safe, effective way to prevent cavities for the most vulnerable among us.
Most of the controversy stems from the misunderstood science behind fluoride, cavities and their relation to poverty.
Water in Gainesville has a natural fluoride level of about 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) extracts water and raises the fluoride level to 0.8 mg/L, give or take a few tenths of a milligram. According to the World Health Organization, American Dental Association, and the American Medical Association, there is no evidence of toxicity at or near these levels.
The evidence on the safety and effectiveness of fluoride in preventing cavities is near a scientific consensus. Despite that, many of the countries that once had water fluoridation programs have stopped with little to no effect on their cavity rates.
These countries could afford to do away with their water fluoridation programs because, unlike in the U.S., they have readily accessible dental care.
“If we had a system similar to what they have in Norway, Sweden, Finland and other similar countries — where they make a huge investment in the oral health of their children — perhaps we wouldn’t need community water fluoridation,” said Dr. Scott Tomar, department chair of Community Dentistry and Behavioural Science at UF’s College of Dentistry.
These programs make sure every child has access to dental care — often by giving exams at schools — with no out-of-pocket cost to families.
By contrast, in the U.S., four-fifths of the 24 million children insured by Medicaid do not see a dentist yearly according to a 2010 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The numbers are even worse for the 8 million uninsured children.
In order to protect them from cavities with the least cost ($0.94 per person per year), we continue to fluoridate our water.
The true controversy over water fluoridation is nothing more then a comment on the current state of healthcare in the US. Fix the healthcare system and make water fluoridation redundant.
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Art by Diana Moreno