“Bite Back Campaign” – a toothy tiger?

Water fluoridation is one of the 20th Century’s most important advances in public health. It has been successfully practised for more than 70 years.
However, tens of thousands of our children will continue to suffer from bad teeth as a growing number of anti-science local councils remain determined to strongly resist fluoridating their drinking water.
Where drinking water does not have optimal levels of fluoride, should the state and federal Governments mandate its use?
The journalists behind the Daily Telegraph’s “Bite Back Campaign” think so.

Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds which include the element fluorine. It is present in water and soil. It is in seawater and underground water. Occasionally, naturally-occurring optimal amounts of fluoride are found in town water, in places such as Portland, Nhill, Port Fairy, Barnawartha and Kaniva in Victoria and Quilpie, Thargomindah and Adavale in Queensland.

Fluoride is also in tea leaves, raisins, carrots, potatoes, wine, meat, fish and rice. It’s as natural as salt.

In the 1940s, scientists discovered that people who lived in areas with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride had fewer dental cavities than their fluoride-deprived neighbours. The optimal level of fluoride is approximately 0.7 parts per million. The main benefit of fluoride is that it can reduce demineralization and by enhancing re-mineralisation, rebuilds tooth enamel which has been eroded by decay. It also strengthens adults’ teeth, which helps those of us who grew up before fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste.  

In Australia, the first water fluoridation program commenced in 1953 in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. Hobart and Canberra fluoridated their water in 1964, and most states and territories followed in the next decade, except Queensland. 

In 2008, the Queensland Government finally mandated widespread fluoridation. However, in 2012, a new government legislated to transfer responsibility back to the local councils. Since then, more than 20 Queensland councils have either ceased, or have not commenced, water fluoridation and now more than 500,000 including more than 40 per cent of their Indigenous population, are being deprived of its health benefits. 

Recognising an urgency to reduce the levels of tooth decay across the country, the Healthy Mouths Healthy Lives: Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2004–2013″, prepared by the National Advisory Committee on Oral Health (NACOH), urged all state and territory governments to increase the spread of fluoridation. They recommended, as a matter of importance, extending it to public water supplies in communities across Australia with populations of 1,000 or more.  The draft of National Oral Health Plan 2015-24 supports this recommendation.  Discussed at the COAG Health Council meeting in August 2015, it has yet to be published. 

A 2015 study found that in a low socio-economic area with high levels of tooth decay, there was a significant reduction only three years after the introduction of water fluoridation. Despite these positive findings, a growing band of anti-fluoride campaigners continue to spruik misinformation and to spread fear in our communities.

Supported by influential celebrities, they claim that it is poisoning our children, causes low intelligence, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, osteoporosis and cancer. They also proclaim fluoridated water is a form of “mass medication”, without acknowledging that sometimes Mother Nature provides the same outcome, and those who drink it do not suffer any health problems.

In reality, there is no evidence that having optimal amounts of fluoride in drinking water does anything but reduce tooth decay!

Without access to fluoridated drinking water, we are condemning our children to a life-time of poor health and expensive dental interventions. Water fluoridation is for the whole population, not just children. The “Bite Back Campaign” aims to ensure that all people who live in towns with populations of more than 1,000, have access to fluoridated water. If the only way to achieve this is to hand control back to state or federal government, they have my vote!

3 responses to ““Bite Back Campaign” – a toothy tiger?”

  1. There is no credible evidence that fluoridated water has ever prevented a single dental cavity. Here’s some quotes from the 2015 Cochrane review of artificial water fluoridation.
    p 2 “A total of 155 studies met the inclusion criteria; 107 studies provided sufficient data for quantitative synthesis.”
    p 2 “There is insufficient information to determine whether initiation of a water fluoridation programme results in a change in disparities in caries across socioeconomic status (SES) levels.
    There is insufficient information to determine the effect of stopping water fluoridation programmes on caries levels.
    No studies that aimed to determine the effectiveness of water fluoridation for preventing caries in adults met the review’s inclusion criteria.”
    p 3 “Researchers from the Cochrane Oral Health Group reviewed the evidence – up to 19 February 2015 – for the effect of water fluoridation. They identified 155 studies in which children receiving fluoridated water (either natural or artificial) were compared with those receiving water with very low or no fluoride. Twenty studies examined tooth decay, most of which (71%) were conducted prior to 1975. A further 135 studies examined dental fluorosis.”
    p 14 “Five studies were funded by research grants from research organisations, health authorities and government organisations, one study was funded in collaboration with members of the committee pro-fluoridation, while the other studies [on caries] did not state their funding sources.”
    p 17 “We judged that all the 20 studies included for the caries outcome (including disparities in caries) were at high risk of bias overall.”
    p 17 “We found all studies to be at high risk of bias for confounding. We considered confounding factors for this outcome to be sugar consumption/dietary habits, SES, ethnicity and the use of other fluoride sources.”
    p 28 “Whilst these [fluoridated] areas tend to have low to very low DMFT, there are many other parts of the world where fluoridated water is not widespread that also have low caries levels. Equally, there are areas with relatively high distribution of water fluoridation and moderate caries levels (e.g. Brazil).”
    p 30 “The quality of the evidence, when GRADE criteria are applied, is judged to be low.”

  2. Ah Dan… Beyond the tirade of abuse on most other web sites, you may even be a nice person. And you may even be the Galileo of the modern era. Or you might just be wrong, wrong, wrong. And every reputable health and scientific authority in Australia thinks you are. All great scientists are mavericks, but sadly not all mavericks are great scientists. But if it makes you feel better, keep fighting the fight. Hope that skeletal fluorosis clears up soon.

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