By Carol Kopf
Fluoride is neither a nutrient nor essential for healthy teeth (1-3). However, the evidence is solid that lack of essential nutrients makes teeth more decay susceptible.
Good dental health begins in the womb (4). Specifically, calcium, protein, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and D help construct babies' primary teeth, according to the American Dental Association.
Additionally, protein-calorie malnutrition, iodine deficiency and excessive fluoride increase susceptibility to dental caries, according to the U.S. Surgeon General (5).
Americans are deficient in calcium (6), magnesium (7), vitamins C (8) and D (9). No evidence indicates any American is fluoride-deficient. In fact, American children are fluoride overexposed (10).
In the past fluoride was credited with the substantial cavity decline. However, "No clear reasons for the caries decline have been identified," according to the 1999 Dental Textbook, Dentistry, Dental Practice and the Community, by Burt and Eklund.
In the past fluoride was credited with the substantial cavity decline. However, fluoridation and the explosion of fluoridated dental products coincided with many health preserving trends. For instance, milk was vitamin D fortified to prevent bone and teeth damaging rickets; cereals and breads were vitamin and mineral enriched; dental care and insurance was encouraged and affordable; and Americans became more nutritionally aware. No valid science proves fluoridation was the cavity-killing culprit.
According to a large federal study (NHANES III) children without deciduous caries experience (tooth decay in the primary teeth) had significantly higher fruit, grain, sodium, and total Healthy Eating Index's than children with deciduous caries experience while children without permanent caries experience (tooth decay in the secondary teeth) had significantly higher dairy, cholesterol, fruit, grain, sodium, variety, and total Healthy Eating Index's than children with permanent caries experience (11).
In fact, American kids who don't eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits -- every day -- up their risk of cavities more than threefold (12).
Burdened with the worst oral health, U.S. children in poverty are also the least healthy, most food insecure, least likely to ingest recommended levels of vital nutrients, least likely to have dental insurance or care, and most likely to have unfilled cavities.
Is fluoridation going to help these children? Common sense and science says, no. But the American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say yes, using claims and endorsements not backed with valid science (13).
Weston Price in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration reported long ago what dentistry needs to re-learn. Children with the best diets have the best teeth without fluoride. Children with the worst diets have the worst teeth even with fluoride.
There's a constant movement of minerals into and out of teeth. Topical Fluoride is said to enhance the re-mineralization process. Without essential minerals available, even topical fluoride is useless. Many low-income children are deficient in required tooth building and repairing nutrients, such as calcium, that also moderate fluoride's toxic effects.
Fruits and vegetables offer a substantial amount of essential nutrients which may be why vegetarians have less tooth decay (14). Only 23% of Americans comply with recommendations to eat 5 - 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, daily (15).
Maybe produce should be government subsidized to repair nutritionally starved kids instead of wasting multi-millions of dollars on fluoride and fluoridation programs each year at the local, state and federal levels. Unlike fluoridation, fruits and vegetables deliver essential nutrients that teeth and bodies require.
Well-meaning but misguided dentists thought fluoride was their magic bullet to prevent tooth decay at a time when nutrients were discovered to prevent diseases, such as vitamin C preventing scurvy. The bad news is that there's no magic bullet to cure or prevent tooth decay. The good news is that tooth decay is highly and easily preventable - with a nutritious diet and regular dental care.
1) National Research Council. Health Effects of Ingested Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington DC. 1993 p. 30
2) National Research Council. 1989. Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition. National Academy of Sciences. National Academies Press Washington, DC. page 235.
3) Physicians' Desk Reference
4) American Dental Association News Release. Good Oral Health Begins in the Womb. February 2002 Available from: http://www.ada.org/public/media/releases/0202_release06.asp
5) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. Released in 2000.
6) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. October 14, 2004. Available from:
7) U.S. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium Fact Sheet. accessed 1/14/06 Available from:
8) Hampl JS, Taylor CA, Johnston CS. 2004. Vitamin C Deficiency and Depletion in the United States: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1994. Am J Public Health May.
9) Holick MF. 2005. The Vitamin D Epidemic and its Health Consequences. J Nutr 135:2739S-2748S. November.
10) Beltrán-Aguilar ED, Barker LK, Canto MT, Dye BA, Gooch BF, et al. Surveillance for Dental Caries, Dental Sealants, Tooth Retention, Edentulism, and Enamel Fluorosis --- United States, 1988--1994 and 1999-2002. MMWR Available from:
11) IADR/AADR/CADR 82nd General Session in Honolulu, Hawaii: The Health Eating Index (HEI) and Dental Caries Among Children, J Dent Res 83(Spec Iss A):abstract number 2917, 2004
12) Dye BA, Shenkin JD, Ogden CL, Marshall TA, Levy SM, Kanellis MJ. 2004. The relationship between healthful eating practices and dental caries in children aged 2-5 years in the United States, 1988-1994. J Am Dent Assoc. January.
13) Center for Reviews and Dissemination. 2003. What the 'York Review' on the fluoridation of drinking water really found. University of York. York, UK Originally released: October 28 2003 Available from
14) Palmer CA. 2003. Diet and Nutrition in Oral Health. 1st ed. Prentice Hall. New Jersey.
15) Centers for Disease Control. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Fruits and Vegetables Nationwide - 2003 Available from: