In the past I have written about the dangers of misinterpreting information from research articles or news sources, with even the Discovery Channel's own author blowing things out of proportion. A recent example is the article a friend of mine forwarded to me this weekend, this time from Dr. Mercola, a physician turned internet health guru.
His opening paragraph says this: A new study in the Journal of the American Dental Association finds once again that, contrary to what most people have been told, fluoride is actually bad for teeth.
Fortunately there is a link to the article listed in PubMed, which says something completely different:
Results suggest that prevalence of mild dental fluorosis could be reduced by avoiding ingestion of large quantities of fluoride from reconstituted powdered concentrate infant formula and fluoridated dentifrice
What that article is actually saying is that if you are using too much fluoridated water for your infants formula, or if your toddler is squeezing the tube of toothpaste down their throat like its cupcake icing, it will cause fluorosis.
So what is fluorosis? It’s a condition of the teeth which is caused by an increased amount of fluorapetite. This fluorapetite comes from ingested fluoride (not rinsing), and can cause brown or white stains on teeth. The condition is esthetic only, with these teeth having a greater ability to resist decay. While these stains are undesirable, saying something is “bad for teeth” implies that the teeth are being damaged in some way, as in the case with soda drinks or sucking on lemons. In the dental field, it is important to balance the difference between esthetics and health. I would never tell a patient with coffee stains on his teeth that coffee is “bad” for him.
The problem is that the language Dr. Mercola uses is inflammatory, inciting fear commensurate with the rest of the article.
So what about his other claims, such as “Fluoride (no amount noted) causes bone fractures”? On a brief search of the PubMed database, I found an article saying that there is no conclusive evidence for the long term effects of water fluoridation on the human skeleton. It’s hard to tell what is true and what is speculation… or what is sensationalism.
Fluoride seems to be one of the most controversial topics in America, and I’m sure that my thoughts here will prompt a few comments. But remember, just because it is on the internet doesn’t always mean it is true. It’s important to keep in mind the source. PubMed is a great start with thousands of peer-reviewed articles. The point is to dig in, figure this out, do the homework, and formulate a solid conclusion that will benefit my patients and my family. I welcome any evidence you the reader might have to get to the real bottom of this topic.