Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fluoride on Tap

Teeth are beyond strange, and I have such respect for folks who spend their days digging around in other people's mouths.  The dental profession is one trade that I will never dabble in.  There is just something about the mouth as an orifice that I find unpalatable.  It is the portal to our innards, lined with bones used for grinding and tearing food.  It is dark, slobbery, stinky.  Gross.

I broke my front tooth Easter Sunday.  Let me rephrase.  I broke off my veneer, a little piece of porcelain no bigger than a press-on pinkie nail that costs as much as some used cars. This is the second time this veneer had broken, the first during a date with Chef early in our relationship.  He had cooked me dinner, which included a beautiful warm boules.  I bit into the crisp crust of the bread, and as I chewed I crunched down on something hard.  I reached into my mouth and pulled out the little white shard, and did not make the connection that it was part of my front tooth until I had flicked it off his balcony.  Needless to say I was mortified.

This Easter it happened during brunch at a friend's house.  My daughter looked at the nub protruding from my gum and she asked, "Mommy is that your horn?"  I replied, "Yes.  It is my unicorn horn."   I was doing my best to rally, but the reality is that when you have a case of pumpkin mouth it is hard to have a sense of humor.  For one thing, you don't want to smile.  At all.

Two days ago I went to the dentist to have a permanent crown put on.   After a good needling, while I sat there waiting for the anesthesia to set I decided to ask my dentist a question that has been bothering me for awhile.  "So what is the deal with Fluoride?  How did they figure out its effects on teeth, and why do some people discourage its use because it is considered a poison?"  

There are many folks who think fluoride should not be in our tap water.  In 2008, the National Kidney Foundation changed their stance from pro-fluoride to neutral on the topic because of concerns of how Fluoride can effect those suffering from renal problems.  The Sierra Club stance is that it should not be mandatory.   The USA is part of only a handful of countries that fluoridates their drinking water, many other nations have tried it in the past but have found it too hard to control the amount of fluoride in the water, a problem we have in the US because it is state regulated thus inconsistent, and some countries just found it too expensive. 

My dentist, who is an amazing doctor...the best dentist I have ever been to, went on to tell me that in the 70's there was a number of studies done on certain populations that had better teeth than others. Turns out in Texas the water in the aquifers that tap water came from have extremely high levels of fluoride naturally.  The people's teeth were stronger than in other parts of the country. They did a controlled study on two groups in New York, one with people drinking un-fluoridated water and one without.  The evidence showed a dramatic difference in how healthy their teeth were.  Her response on the poison factor was that anything ingested in large doses can be harmful, and that the amount of fluoride in tap water is minuscule. Her reasoning was scientific and exact, and she seemed very sure peeping at me over her spectacles.

I didn't tell her that I had used un-fluoridated tooth paste for over a decade now, and had only had two cavities in that time, but also have had a much healthier diet. As a child that ate junk food and drank soda pop like it was my job I suffered terribly with dental issues, even though I brushed twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.

I didn't tell her that my kids' pediatric dentist told me not to brush their teeth with fluoride because they could ingest it.

A good hour of solid drilling into my face, the deed was done.  My tooth looked like new.  I was glad for modern dentistry...thrilled with it.  But the fluoride issue was on my mind and I asked my dentist why not just brush it on...why do we have to ingest it?  She said the ingestion made the teeth actually grow stronger, while the topical application was just a superficial plus.  Makes sense to me, but the ethics of it are still questionable.  I am not sure if I am comfortable with a government adding medication to its water supply, regardless of how minimal the amount.

Although a little Marinol in the old tap water would probably do most folks in this country a world of good...take the edge off if you know what I mean.


Me said...

Thanks for this post Nan. I wonder about this too. We do not use floride toothpaste and drink filtered water. I floss every day and use a tea tree oil and water rinse two times a day.It's just scarey to think that not only do we ingest on a daily basis but we shower in it too. Given that our skin is our biggest organ and is responsible for the transfer and absorption of nutrients AND waste is it really necessary for it to be brushed on, ingested and absorped on a daily basis? So much for everything in moderation. I also agree that eating better plays a huge role in dental health too. Hope you are well!

Nan said...

I didn't really think about our skin and fluoride in the water. It is strange that it is allowed at all...a government putting additives in the water supply. I feel like there needs to be a ballet initiative on the subject!

haggardmom said...

I have mixed feelings about fluoridated water... I understand people's concerns about not having a choice, and it's the government, so... but then again, I grew up on fluoridated water. Neither me nor anyone I knew ever had any side effects from it. I didn't get my first cavity until I was 34. (Probably a combination of factors, not just fluoridated water, contributed to this, but I can say one of them was *not* good tooth care :-)) We have fluoridated water here where we live, so I go back and forth on toothpaste with fluoride... now my kids are good about not swallowing it so I don't worry as much, but I do sometimes buy it without fluoride because it seems unnecessary because of the water.

Nan said...

It is a tough call. I had a root canal at twelve, and my dentist says it is probably because I grew up on well water. My children drink filtered fluoridated water now and while I have hesitations about it...I know they won't be having major dental issues as kids.