Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hard and White

I listen to the radio a lot whilst driving and whenever I hear anything slightly controversial in a discussion I immediately weigh in with my own opinion, shouting it like a loon as I drive along.

"No! You're so WRONG!"

But it took me a while to work out where I stand with regard to putting fluoride in the water.

In America they do it all over the place. In some parts of Britain they've done it for a while. The good thing is that it helps children's teeth to grow strongly, especially in the more deprived areas where the children don't tend to use toothpaste, or even to have their own toothbrush. Top Dentist, who took part in the discussion, said that there are lots of "family toothbrushes" out there. It takes a lot to "gross me out", as Emily would put it, but the idea of a family toothbrush - - ewwwwwwwwww.

The bad thing - or one of the bad things - is that too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis. An excess of it can in a child cause the adult teeth to come through mottled or even with brown stains. Sometimes children get it from using too much toothpaste and swallowing it rather than spitting it out.

But there are worse medical disasters. Surely, in general, if fluoride in the water helps to cut down tooth decay, then we should go right ahead and do it.

Well - - I don't think it's quite so simple. Things rarely are, are they?

The Government has just spent forty-two million pounds on researching it all. But meanwhile, it's got harder and harder to find an NHS dentist, and hence the adults in many of the less well-off families are totally out of the habit of going to the dentist, and hence they don't take their children either.

One woman who rang in said "Why should the Government spend my taxes on putting fluoride in the water to sort out people who can't be bothered to brush their teeth?" And I can imagine a lot of people thinking that. And also, a lot of people thinking that only a tiny proportion of the drinking water is actually drunk, and yet we'll have to pay to put fluoride in all of it.

But actually, I think it's the principle that I have a problem with. Putting stuff in the drinking water, however well-meant, seems wrong to me. It seems a bit Totalitarian State, and makes me uneasy.

On balance I think the forty-two million could have been better spent on dental health education, and on making dentists cheaper. Or even on toothpaste.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the same argument again about "the nanny state", people have forgotten that additives have been put in food stuffs for years, take iodine in salt, the US have done that for years and is a common practice in many countries, especially in Africa.

I agree with you, however, about spending all that money on fluoridation when it's impossible to find an NHS dentist that isn't full. I've been waiting almost 6 years for a vacancy at my local dentist. Until then, I go private, at great expense!

8:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to be lucky that I have a good NHS dentist. I'm luckier still that I, err, *cough*, do rather quite like him and we're on first name terms and always get on very well.

One day (well, I only get maybe one chance a year?!) I will pluck up the courage to string out the conversation beyond pleasantries!

12:53 pm  

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