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When the law against prenatal fluoride passed it may have been justified

Most of this page will be quotes from Mullen’s article about how (1) fluoride decimated the dental business, and (2) the federal government increased the supply of dentists with a program called “capitation”.


Timing – making prenatal fluoride illegal (1966) apparently came before capitation (early 1970’s). (My defense would make more sense if it were the other way around.)


To me the only legitimate argument against prenatal fluoride is that the dental business is important to keep alive and well. I will not dig up the stats on how much dentists contribute to our taxes or our health, but I am sure both are substantial. All the dentists I know have been good folks, and always willing to help in whatever way asked. In general it is a good scientific occupation that deserves our support.


The article:  Mullen W. The disappearing dentist. Chicago Tribune Magazine 1986; cover, pgs 8 – 29.  


“In the early 1970’s, before the effects of fluoridation and new childbearing patterns in America had been recognized, the federal government contributed heavily to what now seems to be a glut of dentists. Economic forecasters then had predicted a serious shortage of dentists, and the government had responded with a program called “capitation” to help dental schools expand their classes. The program offered federal grants to dental schools for constructing new, larger facilities and for new equipment. The size of the grant increased with the number of students admitted. By 1980 every dental school in the U.S. had a new building, new equipment – and more students.”


Fair amount on cost of dental school and paying for practice cases:


“Going to dental school is an expensive proposition often costing $15,000 per year or more. ….[4 to 5 years, plus students pay for practice cases, as they do not get credit until their work is paid for]…. The average graduating dental student leaves school $40,000 to $50,000 in debt.”


Closes with effect of fluoridation and capitation on dental practices:


“During my first years practicing here [1973, in a recently fluoridated city], the kids I was treating had cavities so big I could stick my thumb in them. Now [1986] I don’t see many cavities anymore, and the ones I see are just tiny little flecks. When I first came here, there were 16 general practitioners. Now there are 35. At one time, my schedule was solidly booked four months in advance. Now if you need an appointment, I can see you on Tuesday.”



(This is the end of the “capitation” info. What follows are a few more miscellaneous items from the article.)

A little background, not in the article. Below is a picture of the various degrees of fluorosis, from a Danish fluoride expert, Dr. Ingolf Moller. Notice the hideous brown teeth on the far right. This is the “Colorado brown stain” that led to the discovery of fluoride in the story below. It takes a truckload of fluoride, early in childhood, to turn teeth brown. (Earlier workers such as Critchton-Browne had noted the nutritional benefits of fluoride, but the story below is what led to the widespread use of fluoride.)


Mullen also gives a good timeline for discovery of F H2O:


1901 Frederick McKay moved to Colorado Springs and noticed “Colorado brown stain”.

1908 McKay wrote to G.V. Black about it, invited out to CO, showed him some of 2,945 school aged children, 87.5% of whom had the stain.

1916 McKay and Black published findings, including “this mottled condition, in itself, does not seem to increase the susceptibility of the teeth to decay”.

1928 McKay in an address to Chicago Dental Society that the mottled enamel was often “free from caries” and had a “singular absence of decay”.

1931 McKay / Churchill / ALCOA labs found high fluoride in a water supply that caused staining.

~1931 US Public Health Service assigned H. Trendley Dean to survey the nation’s water supplies for high fluoride content to eliminate the staining.

“In his travels Dean became increasingly intrigued by another of McKay’s earlier observations – that those people with the stain seemed to have fewer cavities than normal. Within a couple of years Dean, working at times with McKay, compared levels of fluoride in the cities he had surveyed and determined that drinking water containing one part fluoride per million did not cause staining. Dean turned to several Illinois communities that had naturally fluoridated water within the range of one part per million and began to study the incidence of cavities in children in those communities. First he studied Galesburg and Monmouth, where the water was naturally fluoridated, comparing them with Macomb and Quincy, which had no fluorides in their water. From the dental histories of 885 children in the four towns, he discovered that children in the unfluoridated communities had more than twice as many cavities.”


[A later study, in 1941, comparing children about 13 years old] “showed that children who grew up drinking fluoridated water developed only about one-fourth as many cavities as those who did not.” (My emphasis.)


Dean was first director of NIDR when it was created in 1948. He died in Chicago in 1962. “Today, except for a few people in dentistry and public health, they [Dean and McKay] are largely forgotten.”


“The drastic reduction of cavities would seem to rank historically with the development of a polio vaccine as a medical achievement. Polio vaccinations and fluoridation both became widely available in the 1950’s, and both showed immediate, verifiable, and stunning success. Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin are justifiably revered names for their work in eliminating polio. But Frederick McKay and H. Trendley Dean, the men most responsible for developing fluoridation, are virtually forgotten.”




Other great quotes from Mullen:

Nobody knows about fluoride:


“Tooth decay, as prevalent as it is, probably is not a burning issue in anyone’s mind, except possibly dentists’. Nor, for that matter, is fluoridation. In 1984 a national opinion survey revealed that only 2 percent of those Americans questioned mentioned fluoridation as an important preventative for cavities.” (page 16)


Classic anti-F tactics – lots:


 “Despite the record, anti-fluoridationists effectively fight for their cause by continually bringing up new alleged hazards from long-term used of fluorides in water. Through the years anti-fluoridationists have accused fluoridation of causing cancer, heart disease, bone brittleness, anemia, diabetes, strokes, infertility, stillbirths, mongolism, premature aging and even nymphomania.


These charges are usually thinly documented, if at all, but it doesn’t really matter for the purposes of anti-fluoridationists. In an argument over the safety of fluoridation, the burden of proof necessarily lies with the pro-fluoridationists. By the time pro-fluoridationists have refuted claims that fluoridation causes heart disease, anti-fluoridationists are claiming it causes birth defects.”



But – a quick look at a few things Mullen misses – nothing on the popular vitamins with fluoride. The timing of fluoridation of water was mostly in the 1950’s, so that would not account for the big change seen in the early 1970’s. What would is the rapid spread of infant vitamins with fluoride (such as “Poly-Vi-FlorŪ” by Mead Johnson). This happened in 1962, so in 1970 the first of these kids would be hitting their usual cavity-prone years, but now without cavities. (Prenatal vitamins with fluoride also hit in 1962, but I don’t think these were as popular as the infant vits, and at any rate were only legal until 1966.)


Mullen also missed that ancient foods had higher fluoride than modern foods. He noted that very ancient Egyptians had no decay, but after agriculture began they did, even showing some pharoahs with lost teeth, but blamed it on food texture: “…eating habits became refined, and diets changed. Bread was invented, for instance, baked from coarsely ground grains containing grit that lodged between the teeth. Thus, civilization brought something new and damaging to the human experience – tooth decay.” He did have that fluoride is an “essential nutrient” and “a naturally occurring substance that is contained in almost all foods”.

On to dentists no longer needing this subsidy