Fluoride in drinking water good for teeth, study shows

12 Mar

While I am prone to believe any additives to water can pose more risks than benefits, a new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Adelaide, Australia have shown that those who drink water containing fluoride have a lesser risk of tooth decay and other dental problems.

But the question is whether the dental benefits outweight some other risks. Researchers have found that too much fluoride can cause symptoms of  low thyroid function such as fatigue, irregular bowel function and weight gain. This is because fluoride comes from the same family of elements as iodione, which is the main component of the thyroid function. Some experts worry that too much fluoride in drinking water would upset the iodine balance in the body.

But, for the most part the data about fluoride in water is still open to criticism, and most dentists still believe it can be a health benefit, if used in moderation.

“It was once thought that fluoridated drinking water only benefited children who consumed it from birth,” Gary Slade, who is John W. Stamm Distinguished Professor and director of the oral epidemiology Ph.D. program at UNC, said. “Now we show that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood.  In public health terms, it means that more people benefit from water fluoridation than previously thought.”

The study published online in the Journal of Dental Research showed that adults who lived in communities with fluoridated water for more than 75 percent of their lifetime had up to 30 percent less tooth decay, compared to people who only lived in similar communities 25 percent of their lifetime.

“At this time, when several Australian cities are considering fluoridation, we should point out that the evidence is stacked in favor of long-term exposure to fluoride in drinking water,” Kaye Roberts-Thomson, a co-author of the study said. “It really does have a significant dental health benefit.”

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