Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
A number of recent studies by dental groups and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention make the case that a rise in the consumption of bottled water by American children is a major factor in the simultaneous boost in tooth decay because the bottled water does not contain fluoride.
“You should brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, see the dentist twice a year for fluoride treatment and get fluoride in your drinking water,” said Jonathan D. Shenkin, spokesman on pediatric dentistry for the American Dental Association. “If you’re not getting it in your drinking water, that takes out a component of the effectiveness of that triad.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too, warns that “bottled water may not have a sufficient amount of fluoride, which is important for preventing tooth decay and promoting oral health.”
No question, many kids do drink bottled water. One recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics found that about 45 percent of parents give their kids only or primarily bottled water, while another in the journal Pediatric Dentistry found that nearly 70 percent of parents gave bottled water either alone or with tap water.
More than 65 percent of parents using bottled water did not know what levels of fluoride it contained, that study showed.
At the same time, tooth decay appears to affect a huge swath of the nation’s young children. About 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11 in the U.S. had cavities in their baby teeth, according to a 2007 prevalence study, the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image: Bottle of water, via Shutterstock.
Monday, March 5th, 2012
Parents in Chatham, New Jersey are alarmed to learn that as many as 50 children’s prescriptions for fluoride pills were accidentally switched with Tamoxifen, a powerful breast cancer drug, by a local CVS pharmacy between December 1 and February 20. CVS Caremark told The Associated Press that only a few children ingested the cancer medication, believing it to be the chewable fluoride tablet, and that those children are not likely to suffer any health effects.
From the AP:
“Fortunately, it’s very unlikely that this specific drug would cause any serious or adverse effects when used for only a short periods of time,” said Daniel Hussar, a professor with the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the University of the Sciences.
CVS said it had spoken with or left messages for every family whose child was dispensed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription from its Chatham location within the past 60 days. The company issued a statement Friday that said it was “deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred,” although it did not explain how the mistake happened.
Mike DeAngelis, CVS Caremark’s director of public relations, has said that “most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills.” No injuries related to the mix-up have been reported.
Officials say the two pills are similar looking but have distinctively different tastes. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and is usually prescribed by dentists for children, while Tamoxifen is used to treat breast cancer and blocks the female hormone estrogen.
Image: Pill bottle, via Shutterstock.
Monday, March 5th, 2012
Residents of New Jersey are embroiled in a debate over whether the state should require each town to fluoridate its water, something that almost every other state does as a matter of routine. The New York Times reports on the debate between medical groups, who say that fluoride is the best way to prevent tooth decay in children, and opponents who make arguments–based, officials say, on questionable science–including that fluoride is a carcinogen and it lowers I.Q. in children.
From the Times:
Similar bills have failed in the state since 2005, under pressure from the public utilities lobby and municipalities that argue that fluoridation costs too much, environmentalists who say it pollutes the water supply, and antifluoride activists who argue that it causes cancer, lowers I.Q. and amounts to government-forced medicine.
Public health officials argue that the evidence does not support any of those arguments — and to the contrary, that fluoridating the water is the single best weapon in fighting tooth decay, the most prevalent disease among children.
But they also say they are fighting a proliferation of misleading information. While conspiracy theories about fluoride in public water supplies have circulated since the early days of the John Birch Society, they now thrive online, where anyone, with a little help from Google, can suddenly become a medical authority.
“In the age of the Internet, it’s very easy to spread many of these rumors,” said Barbara F. Gooch, the associate director for science in the Oral Health Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “People go looking for information about why this is bad, and they find it pretty easily.”
So while William Bailey, the acting director of the Oral Health Division and the chief dental officer of the United States Public Health Service, calls it “the ideal public health measure,” opponents online argue the unproven allegation that the Nazis used fluoride to sedate concentration camp victims.
Image: Girl brushing her teeth, via Shutterstock.