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Dentistry Ohio

'Living' Article September 2011- 'Fluroride... friend or foe?'

Landen Living

September 2011


At a recent continuing education course down in Charlotte, North Carolina I found myself sharing two days with a dentist who is absolutely determined that we’re doing America’s populous a huge disservice with our use of fluoride to combat tooth decay.   

It was 1945 when the pioneering water fluoridation study was initiated, a program in which Grand Rapids, Michigan received fluoridated water while Muskegon, Michigan acted as the fluoride-free control city.  The results of this study led to wide spread municipal water fluoridation programs and what is still embraced by many as perhaps history’s single most successful public health initiative. 

So where is the truth in all of this?  While the American Dental Association and most of the scientific community stands resolute behind fluoride’s safe and effective reputation there is a fringe element that insists we are poisoning America’s citizenry. 

I don’t claim to possess the barometer of truth on this matter.  All I can do is continue to examine the literature as it becomes available.  For instance, a new study in the Journal of Dental Research finds there is no significant association between bone fluoride levels and osteosarcoma, a rare cancer that is more prevalent in men.  Just like developing tooth structure, bone pulls in available fluoride as new cells grow and develop.  Dr. Chester Douglass of the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine led this case-control study in which patients from nine US hospitals were studied from 1993-2000.  In the end they found no significant difference in bone fluoride levels between cases and controls. 

“The controversy over whether there is an association between fluoride and risk for osteosarcoma has existed since an inconclusive animal study done twenty years ago,” says Dr. Helen Whelton, Vice President of the International Association for Dental Research.  “Numerous human descriptive and case-control studies have attempted to address the controversy, but this study of using actual bone fluoride concentrations as a direct indicator of fluoride exposure represents our best science to date and shows no association between fluoride in bone and osteosarcoma risk.” 

This study design was approved by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, with funding provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and NCI.   You can examine the complete Journal of Dental Research article by visiting:

As for me, I continue to embrace fluoride as a wonderful preventative health tool.  At the house Lynn and I count our tube of fluoridated Crest toothpaste as a gift as opposed to a threat.  At the office I opt for a topical application of fluoride varnish each time Sheri or Amanda cleans my teeth.  I hope you’ll do the same. 

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