Fluoride victim to get her smile back
by Robert Matthews
TOMORROW 10-year-old Lisa Wain will get into the dentist's chair hoping to
put three years of taunts and teasing behind. She will be having veneers put
over her top front four teeth to hide ugly, brown stains caused by fluoride, the
compound put into toothpastes and drinking water supposedly to protect teeth.
"When Lisa's second teeth came through we saw that they had these patchy,
brown stains on, and they started to go darker," said her mother, Patricia. "I
took her to the dentist and asked him to clean them off. He said that they
couldn't be cleaned off because it was staining caused by too much fluoride.
"Lisa has been teased with people saying she doesn't clean her teeth. In
fact, she's never had any fillings. I was shocked because we're always being
told how good fluoride is for teeth, especially for young children. No one said
you could have too much."
Patricia Wain is one of dozens of parents throughout Britain planning to take
on toothpaste manufacturers for allegedly not making clear the risks of dental
fluorosis, the permanent discoloration of teeth caused by excess fluoride.
Claims that the parents should be granted legal aid to pursue their case are
due to be heard in the High Court next month.
Their action highlights the growing doubts among some doctors about the
health effects of the fluoridation of toothpaste and water - seen as one of the
most successful public health measures of recent years.
First introduced into the water supplies of some parts of Britain in the
early 1970s, fluoride is thought to protect teeth by boosting the resistance of
enamel to the acid produced by bacteria in the mouth.
Scientists accept that fluoride is poisonous if taken in excess, and
guidelines have been introduced to control levels in toothpastes and water. But
with so many dental products also containing fluoride, there is a danger that
these levels are being exceeded. Ironically, it is the children of the most
conscientious parents who may be at most risk.
Some scientists are also concerned about the
reports of long-term health effects of fluoride in adults. The compound is
known to stimulate bone growth, and is sometimes used to combat
osteoporosis, the thinning of bones that affects many elderly women. This
replacement bone can be brittle, however, and some recent studies in America
have found links between water fluoridation and an increased risk of hip
According to Dr Sheila Gibson of Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, a
researcher into the health effects of fluoride, the compound has also been
linked to reduced thyroid activity, depressed insulin release by the
pancreas, and erosion of the stomach lining. In the laboratory, Dr Gibson
has also shown that fluoride may depress the disease-fighting immune system
of humans, by reducing the mobility of white blood cells.
I believe that the addition of fluoride to water should be abandoned
there are so many adverse health effects," said Dr Gibson. A number of
countries, including Scotland she said, had either never been convinced by
the benefits of fluoridation, or had abandoned it. "Rates of dental decay
have been falling through better diet and oral hygiene in any case," she
Her views are countered by Professor John Murray, Dean of the Dental
School of Newcastle University, who believes that, overall, fluoride has
been an outstanding success.
He quoted a recent Office of Population Censuses and Surveys report which
showed that in 1973, the average 15-year-old had about eight of his or her
32 teeth affected with decay, fillings, or missing altogether. In 1993, that
average had dropped to two. Over a similar period, the average number of
diseased teeth in children aged five or under fell from four to fewer than
two. The best figures were recorded in England, which has made most use of
All white now:
Lisa before (top) and during treatment
Even so, Prof Murray accepts that there can be problems of excess fluoride if
children are given adult toothpastes, which contain up to four times more
fluoride than children's toothpaste.
"If you have a toddler wandering around with a toothbrush with one of these
higher-level toothpastes on. and swallowing the toothpaste, then there can be a
problem," he said. "The antidote is to use children's toothpaste."
With possible legal action pending, toothpaste manufacturers were reluctant
to comment on the health effects of fluoride. Elida Gibbs, makers of Mentadent
and Signal, said that it issues clear instructions about the use of its products
with young children.
- Those wishing to contact the
National Register of Children with Dental Fluorosis should contact Margaret
Cooper, Home Farmhouse. Oxton, Nottinghamshire NG25 OSZ.