Monday, September 17, 2007

The Glorious Toothbrush !

Recent studies have compared dental cavity rates in areas that do not fluoridate versus those that do. Although the incidents of bone fractures, thyroid abnormalities, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, childhood cancers, and so on, has increased; the communities that fluoridate show a marginal benefit in reduced cavities over those that do not. If the benefits are marginal today, then what has changed ?

We must remember that the levels of fluoride we're being exposed to has only been since our current lifetime, or specifically since WWII. I truly believe that we have improved dental hygiene in the last fifty years, but it was due to the Army (which had only years earlier introduced the first military dentist) and the introduction of nylon in the 1930's. Oral hygiene was mandated on the enlisted men during the war, and when they returned home this became affordable with the mass production and assembly of nylon toothbrushes.

Not that the toothbrush was new, as hand assembled boar hair brushes had been popular amongst the wealthy; but it became widely available and accepted, along with prepared toothpaste. If you think it couldn't be that simple, stop to realize that many households prior to the end of WWII did not have toothbrushes. Oral hygiene was very basic and usually consisted of tooth powders and a rag, or fingertip, to cleanse. But even as late as the 1950's, many dentist did not recommend nylon toothbrushes because they had the opinion it was too harsh for the enamel, so it was a gradual conversion.

Of course during the campaign to popularize fluoride, overall oral hygiene was taught to the masses through public school programs. Fluoridation coincides with improved dental care through nationwide programs to dispense toothbrushes to school-age children in rural communities.

So I do not think it is unreasonable to think that the toothbrush is responsible for the improved oral hygiene, and not fluoride as we have been taught. Has anyone stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, the popularity of the toothbrush after WWII and consequent oral hygiene is the reason for fewer cavities ?! Perhaps we have been praising the wrong thing ! It is time for science to stop looking through the microscope and look at a simpler explanation - one that is statistically, if not scientifically, appropriate.

Original content written by : Tina Elmore-Wright

1 comment:

mamaluv said...

It sure would be interesting to see a study that includes a sample group whose participants are not regular tooth-brushers but do have fluoridated water... So many confounding variables, you really have to wonder about the validity of any result - that's Statistics 101 for ya.

Great article, Tina! Nice to see you back in the blogosphere.