Why Fluoride Doesn’t Stop Tooth Decay

The History of Fluoridated Water

According to the National Museum of Australia, “The first instance of fluoride being added to drinking water was at Grand Rapids in the US state of Michigan in 1945. Prior to this, in 1901, American dentist Frederick McKay set up a practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He noticed many of the residents’ teeth were discoloured, a condition known as ‘Colorado brown stain’ [known as fluorosis]. After many years of treating this condition, McKay concluded that it must be due to a problem with the water supply. Interestingly, he also discovered that patients whose teeth were stained generally had less tooth decay.”

Then, “In 1930, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) analysed the water supply that serviced Colorado Springs. It was found to contain a high percentage of fluoride. This discovery, and McKay’s observations, provided enough evidence to look seriously into fluoride as a way to protect teeth from decay.” Subsequently, water was fluoridated across much of the United States and other western nations.

When Was Fluoride First Introduced to Toothpaste?

It wasn’t long after this that consumer goods producer, Proctor and Gamble, recognised an opportunity to create an oral hygiene product leveraging fluoride. Before this, oral hygiene products were limited and not widely used, and it was believed that this was the reason behind the increased incidence of tooth decay. Ultimately, toothpaste as we know it (containing fluoride) was born in 1956 and has been a mainstay ever since.

The Fluoride Myth

As a result, people now believe that the absence of fluoride causes tooth decay. This, however, is a myth. We regularly treat people who drink fluoridated water and use fluoridated toothpaste yet still suffer from tooth decay. Why is this? The truth is that it is not the absence of fluoride that causes decay but the presence of sugar.

This is why our ancestors rarely suffered from tooth decay - because their diet consisted of minimal sugar. This is highlighted in the work of Dr Weston Price, who, throughout his studies of primitive tribes, observed only one cavity per 1000 teeth. This lack of tooth decay was not due to fluoride but rather to their diet, which was devoid of sugar and comparatively high in protein and fat. You can read more about the role a high fat, high protein diet plays in oral health here.

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Why Is There Such a Focus on Fluoride Preventing Tooth Decay?

This begs the question; if tooth decay is driven by diet, why is fluoride considered the best method of preventing tooth decay - wouldn’t it be better to change the diet? The answer is yes; abiding by a properly formulated diet (high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates and sugar) is best to prevent tooth decay. We explain in detail why this is the case here.

The issue is the world we live in is dominated by processed, carbohydrate-rich and sugar-rich foods. These foods are now more prevalent than those apart of traditional ancestral diets. This is largely because government-prescribed food pyramids promoted carbohydrate-rich foods like cereal, bread, pasta, and grains over healthy fats.

The unfortunate reality is that most people are unaware of the harm caused by these processed foods, and even if they are, they often aren’t inclined to change their diets to one that is conducive to preventing tooth decay.

Fluoride Doesn’t Stop Tooth Decay

Naturally, this causes much frustration amongst dentists, as they are essentially rendered helpless in preventing or stopping tooth decay so long as people persist with such diets. The truth is that no amount of fluoride can combat the adverse effects of a high sugar diet.

When you also consider the health risks associated with fluoride, it becomes glaringly obvious that this idea that fluoride is beneficial for our oral health is a myth. Instead, we must return to a properly formulated diet to combat tooth decay effectively.