The Science Is “Effectively Settled”

Posted & filed under What the Experts Say about Fluoride.

Earlier this month, the chief science adviser to New Zealand’s prime minister released a lengthy statement about community water fluoridation. Before you hear what he had to say, consider the credentials of Sir Peter Gluckman.

He is a professor of pediatric and perinatal biology at the University of Auckland. Gluckman was formerly the dean of the university’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. He is the only New Zealander ever chosen for the National Academy of Medicine of the U.S. National Academies of Science. Gluckman is also a Fellow at the Royal Society of London, a distinguished scientific body founded in 1660. In 2001, he was awarded the Rutherford Medal, which is the top science award in New Zealand. Now, here are excerpts of what Gluckman wrote about fluoridation on June 12:

In recent weeks we have seen a revival of the water fluoridation “debate”. Perhaps the question we need to ask is “what is the debate really about?”

The science of fluoride in water is effectively settled. It has been one of the most thoroughly worked questions in public health science over some decades. There is a voluminous scientific and lay literature that needs to be considered.

There is no doubt that the presence of low amounts of fluoride in water (either naturally occurring or adjusted to between 0.7 and 1 mg/litre) reduces the incidence of dental caries and this is even in advanced economies where dental hygiene has been much improved and where fluoride toothpastes are available. In some countries, fluoride need not be added to the water supply because their geology naturally provides water with fluoride in at least these concentrations. But for some decades, in countries such as New Zealand, where fluoride levels are very low in natural water, fluoride has been added to the water supply.

Notably, both the very young and the old benefit from fluoride in the water supply. They develop fewer dental caries and thus have a significant reduction in the downstream effects such as the need for invasive dental surgery associated with problematic dental status. As in all populations the burden of poor dental health is considerably greater for those in less advantaged socioeconomic conditions and it is this population that benefits most from water fluoridation.

… The fluoride debate is based in no small part on numerous examples of inappropriate extrapolation from what happens at hugely higher doses of fluoridation, combined with what is frankly scaremongering. Further, because the way one looks for side effects following population interventions requires particular epidemiological approaches, the language of evidence-based medicine can be confusing to the non-expert and easily exploited.

Gluckman’s entire statement is worth reading.