City Removes Fluoride from Water, Everyone’s Teeth Fall Out

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Bodily fluids. Is there anything more precious? Which is why conspiracy theorists the world ‘round are terrified of the things that may be in our drinking water. No, not dangerous levels of all-natural lead, which ended up in Flint’s drinking water because of an anti-corrosive the government was failing to add to it. No, they’re terrified of the things the government IS adding to the water to make it safer — namely, fluoride.

Fluoride is a naturally-occurring compound that is found in water — fresh, salt, and falling from the sky — in various concentrations. At the dawn of the 20th century, a dentist named Frederick McKay moved to Colorado Springs and was shocked to find that everyone there had brown stains on their teeth. After sciencing the heck out of the problem, he learned two important things: first, that the town’s water supply had an unusually high concentration of fluoride, and second that the town’s residents were much much less likely to get cavities compared to the general population.

It’s a real “would you rather” situation: what if you never had to worry about a cavity again, but your teeth would be stained brown?

The good news is that after further research, scientists found that you don’t have to choose. By 1945 the National Institutes of Health figured out the right amount of fluoride to add to water that wouldn’t stain anyone’s teeth but did prevent cavities, dropping them by 60% over the course of 10 years in tester city Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Which brings us to today, when a bunch of people freak out because they think fluoride causes cancer. It doesn’t. There have been many, many studies done on this now from a number of different angles. Pumping animals full of fluoride doesn’t seem to cause cancer, and cancer rates have not risen among the millions of people who have been subjected to fluoride in their drinking water throughout the past 70 years. It is perfectly safe and it prevents cavities.

Despite that, we have cities like Windsor, Ontario, where in 2013 the city council voted to stop fluoridating their water due to completely unfounded health concerns. In the five years since, the number of children with tooth decay or requiring urgent care increased by 51%. It doesn’t take a scientific genius to see the very obvious correlation here, and there was no other drastic change in dental health during that time that might otherwise account for all those rotten teeth, unless an actual sugar plum fairy came by and secretly poured sugar into the mouths of children under cover of darkness. Ew, that sounds gross. I hope it wasn’t that.

The town’s idiot mayor, Drew Dilkens, originally approved of fluoride to be removed from their water and didn’t change his mind when the streets were paved with cavity-riddled teeth. He still doesn’t want fluoride in the water, and he got two other councilmen on his side. Luckily, good sense prevailed thanks to people like Joyce Zuk, executive director of Family Services Windsor-Essex, who said “I’m not trained in science. When we don’t know the answer, we look to our experts to provide us with an answer. And in this case, our experts are the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.”

Holy shit can we make our politicians say something like that every morning when they get to work? Like a Pledge of Allegiance but instead of it being toward a flag it’s a pledge of allegiance to science. Please.

The morons who still don’t want fluoride argued that it’s a matter of taking away “personal consent,” which is truly idiotic. First of all, people can still choose to use bottled water if they really want, though obviously depending on where it comes from and what type it is, that might have fluoride, too, naturally or otherwise. Second of all, you don’t need someone’s consent to offer the public at large an unqualified good with literally no downsides. Like, if the government of Windsor found an actual golden-egg laying goose, and they made a program where everyone in the town gets an egg every week, one guy who thinks golden eggs are gaudy doesn’t get to kill the goose because he didn’t consent to it pooping out eggs. If you don’t consent to having a healthy mouth, just do what I do and drink nothing but Coke Zero and red wine. Not together. Also today I’m not feeling well so I’m having tea made with tap water that has fluoride in it so despite my worst intentions I am not dying of tooth infections or something. Thanks, science!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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One Comment

  1. I like how you started with precious bodily fluids. I wonder how many anti-fluoride types know that was a real John Birch Society conspiracy theory. “Poe” could very well stand for Purity Of Essence. (It doesn’t. But it’s nice to pretend.)

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