Trevor Sheldon, dean of the Hull York Medical School in the United Kingdom, conducted a review of water fluoridation in 2000. Sheldon concluded that the process is not effective. “I had assumed because of everything I’d heard that water fluoridation reduces cavities but I was completely amazed by the lack of evidence,” he told Newsweek. “My prior view was completely reversed.”
Sheldon points out that some studies have actually shown that when water fluoridation was ceased, cavities went down a small percentage among schoolchildren. This includes a 2001 study of two British Columbia communities that was included in the Cochrane review.
The Cochrane team also found that most studies confirming the effectiveness of fluoridation were completed prior to the widespread use of dental products such as mouth rinses and toothpastes. The study did find evidence that fluoridation was linked to a 26 percent decrease in cavities. However, this study was also done before the growth of modern dentistry. The researchers write, “We have limited confidence in the size of this effect due to the high risk of bias within the studies and the lack of contemporary evidence.”
Critics have long argued that any benefits of fluoride are only effective when applied topically, directly to the teeth. This would make water fluoridation largely a waste of resources. Moreover, exposing the internal organs to fluoride might actually be harmful to health. The possibility of harmful side effects from water fluoridation is still heavily debated.
In early June, the Health Research Board (HRB) completed an in-depth review of the effects of water fluoridation. The review was conducted at the behest of the U.S. Department of Health. After examining all internationally peer-reviewed papers on the topic of fluoride and health effects from 2006 to 2014, the HRB “found no definitive evidence that community water fluoridation is associated with positive or negative systemic health effects.”
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