50 years ago, fluoridation was promoted as a bone protector | Science News



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50 Years Ago

50 years ago, fluoridation was promoted as a bone protector

Excerpt from the November 5, 1966, issue of Science News

7:00am, November 17, 2016
girl drinking from fountain

DRINK UP  While fluoridated water isn’t the cure for everything that ails you, it does reduce tooth decay by 25 percent in kids and adults alike.

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Fluoridation lessens disease in adults — Antifluoridationists … not only “have little concern for the preservation of children’s teeth,” but “are contributing to the ill health of all of us, young and old alike,” [said] Dr. D. Mark Hegsted, professor of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.… [An] adequate intake of fluoride can keep bones healthy and prevent soft tissues from calcifying. — Science News, November 5, 1966


The role of fluoride in bone health has been much less clear than its benefit for teeth. Studies in the 1980s showed treatment with a calcium-fluoride mix increased bone mass (SN: 1/21/89, p. 36) and reduced fracture risk in women with osteoporosis. But an analysis of 25 studies in 2008 showed fluoride doesn’t ease fracture risk. In 1951, only 3.3 percent of the U.S. population had fluoridated water; by 2014, that rate was up to 66.3 percent. Fluoridated drinking water may not help bones, but it does reduce cavities by 25 percent in both adults and children.


S.O. Griffin et al. Effectiveness of fluoride in preventing caries in adultsJournal of Dental Research. Vol. 86, May 2007, p. 410. doi: 10.1177/154405910708600504.

B.L. Riggs et al. Effect of the Fluoride/Calcium Regimen on Vertebral Fracture Occurrence in Postmenopausal Osteoporosis — Comparison with Conventional TherapyNew England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 306, February 25, 1982, p. 446. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198202253060802.

P. Vestergaard et al. Effects of treatment with fluoride on bone mineral density and fracture risk: a meta-analysisOsteoporosis International. Published online August 15, 2007. doi: 10.1007/s00198-007-0437-6.

L.J. Melton, III. Fluoride in the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Vol. 5, March 1990, p. S163. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.5650051352.

Community Water Fluoridation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Last Updated August 1, 2016.

Further Reading

L. Sanders. Brush kids’ teeth with just a little fluoride toothpaste. Science News Online. February 25, 2014.

J. Raloff. Chocolate Constituent Bests Fluoride. Science News Online. May 22, 2007.

K.A. Fackelmann. Fluoride-calcium combo builds better bones. Science News. Vol. 135, January 21, 1989.

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