The Federal Denture Act (18 USC 1821), enacted in 1942 and amended in 1996 (PL 104-294) and 2002 (PL 107-273), prohibits the interstate transport “by mail or otherwise” of “any set of artificial teeth or prosthetic dental appliance or other denture” made by an unlicensed dentist. Violators are subject to a fine and/or imprisonment of not more than one year.
But it’s not just Americans’ false teeth that the federal government is concerned about.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just released the U.S. Public Health Service’s final recommendation that “the optimal fluoride concentration in drinking water for prevention of dental caries in the United States be reduced to 0.7 mg/L, from the previous range of 0.7–1.2 mg/L.” This “updates and replaces the 1962 Drinking Water Standards related to community water fluoridation.” The new recommendation is being released “because of new data that address changes in the prevalence of dental fluorosis, the relationship between water intake and outdoor temperature in children, and the contribution of fluoride in drinking water to total fluoride exposure in the United States.”
“The change is recommended because now Americans have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when fluoridation was first introduced in the United States,” Dr. Boris Lushniak, the deputy surgeon general, told reporters. “The new recommended level will maintain the protective decay prevention benefits of water fluoridation and reduce the occurrence of dental fluorosis,” he added.
After convening a “federal interdepartmental, interagency panel of scientists to review scientific evidence relevant to the 1962 PHS Drinking Water Standards for fluoride concentrations in drinking water in the United States and to update these recommendations based on current science,” the federal government summarized the conclusions of the panel, along with their rationale, and printed them in the Federal Register on January 13, 2011.
A period of time for public comments was then extended. Approximately 19,300 responses were received from the general public; commercial companies; organizations that advocated the cessation of community water fluoridation; and organizations representing dental, public health, or water-supply professionals. The vast majority of the comments “opposed community water fluoridation at any concentration.”
In response to those concerns, the Public Health Service “again reviewed the scientific information cited to support the actions announced in January 2011” and “again considered carefully whether or not the proposed recommendations and standards on fluoride in drinking water continue to provide the health benefits of community water fluoridation while minimizing the chance of unwanted health effects from too much fluoride.” The panel considered the responses “in the context of best available science” but did not alter its original recommendation that a “fluoride concentration of (0.7 mg/L) provides the best balance of benefit to potential harm.”
The Public Health Service says that approximately 200 million people in the United States are served by 12,341 community water systems that provide fluoridated water to their customers.
There is one real problem with municipal and other water systems adding fluoride to the drinking water they provide. But the pros and cons of fluoridating the water supply cloud the real issue.
The real problem with water fluoridation is not its safety. The possible adverse health effects of ingesting fluoride have been pointed out for decades: tooth-enamel erosion, dental fluorosis, bone fractures, skeletal fluorosis, carcinogenicity, arthritis, neurological effects, and endocrine disruption. Fluoride is actually a highly toxic substance.
The real problem with water fluoridation is not its cost. With more than 12,000 community water systems that provide fluoridated water to their customers, we are talking about millions and millions of dollars that are being spent to add fluoride to water supplies. That is millions and millions of dollars in higher water bills that customers ultimately end up paying. I wonder how many of those water systems had an impartial cost-benefit analysis of adding fluoride to the water supply performed?
The real problem with water fluoridation is not its effectiveness. Many scientists and dentists over the years have questioned whether fluoridated water actually strengthens tooth enamel and prevents cavities. Studies can be cited pro and con. But contrary to what government wants Americans to believe, there is no consensus.
The real problem with water fluoridation is not its necessity. If there are benefits to the application of fluoride on the teeth, there are plenty of ways to accomplish that without adding fluoride to the water supply: toothpaste and mouthwash fortified with fluoride, fluoride treatments, fluoride tablets, and fluoride supplements.
The real problem with water fluoridation is not its efficiency. If the application of fluoride is supposed to benefit the teeth, and primarily the teeth of children, it seems like a tremendous waste to put fluoride in the water supply, when most of the water Americans use is for showering; flushing toilets; watering lawns; and washing dishes, clothes, and cars rather than passing over people’s teeth. Since most of the toothpaste on store shelves contains fluoride, it seems much more efficient to just have children brush their teeth more often. And then there is the growing reliance on bottled water, which generally contains much less fluoride than tap water. That makes it completely pointless to add fluoride to the water supply.
The real problem with water fluoridation is not its standard. The standard has been lowered to 0.7 mg/L. Some scientists think that is too high, some scientists think it is too low, some scientists think it is just right, and some scientists aren’t sure about it. But since the standard has been lowered, does that mean that Americans have for years been ingesting too much fluoride?
The real problem, as usual, is government — government on the national level (which sets the fluoride standards) and government on the state and local level (which generally provide, or oversee the provision of, the water).
On the national level, it is neither constitutional nor a legitimate purpose of the federal government to issue standards on drinking water or water fluoridation; commission or undertake studies on Americans’ teeth; collect dental information on Americans; employ hundreds of scientists, researchers, and dentists to study the effects of adding fluoride to water supplies; or even to have a Department of Health and Human Services.
On the state and local level, the adding of fluoride to water supplies amounts to nothing less than forced medication. Once that is deemed acceptable, no legitimate objection can be raised to further government encroachment in the name of public health. If it improves Americans’ health to add fluoride to the water supply, then why not vitamins and minerals? If the government hires a bunch of scientists, researchers, and nutritionists and they issue a report extolling the health benefits of broccoli, then who is to say that the government shouldn’t send its agents to every home in the United States and force-feed every American the government-recommended allowance of broccoli? And if it is okay for the government to take positive measures to improve Americans’ health, then why not negative measures as well, such as banning large-size soft drinks?
Governments at all levels just need to leave Americans’ teeth alone.