Why I Changed My Mind About Water Fluoridation
Dr. John Colquhoun
To explain how I came to change my opinion about water fluoridation,
I must go back to when I was an ardent advocate of the procedure.
I now realize that I had learned, in my training in dentistry,
only one side of the scientific controversy over fluoridation.
I had been taught, and believed, that there was really no scientific
case against fluoridation, and that only misinformed lay people
and a few crackpot professionals were foolish enough to oppose
it. I recall how, after I had been elected to a local government
in Auckland (New Zealand's largest city, where I practised dentistry
for many years and where I eventually became the Principal Dental
Officer) I had fiercely and, I now regret, rather arrogantly
poured scorn on another Council member (a lay person who
had heard and accepted the case against fluoridation) and persuaded
A few years later, when I had become the city's Principal Dental Officer, I published a paper in the New Zealand Dental Journal that reported how children's tooth decay had declined in the city following fluoridation of its water, to which I attributed the decline, pointing out that the greatest benefit appeared to be in low-income areas . My duties as a public servant included supervision of the city's school dental clinics, which were part of a national School Dental Service which provided regular six-monthly dental treatment, with strictly enforced uniform diagnostic standards, to almost all (98 percent) school children up to the age of 12 or 13 years. I thus had access to treatment records, and therefore tooth decay rates, of virtually all the city's children. In the study I claimed that such treatment statistics "provide a valid measure of the dental health of our child population" . That claim was accepted by my professional colleagues, and the study is cited in the official history of the New Zealand Dental Association .
Before I left on the tour my superiors confided to me that they were worried about some new evidence which had become available: information they had collected on the amount of treatment children were receiving in our school dental clinics seemed to show that tooth decay was declining just as much in places in New Zealand where fluoride had not been added to the water supply. But they felt sure that, when they had collected more detailed information, on all children (especially the oldest treated, 12-13 year age group) from all fluoridated and all nonfluoridated places  information which they would start to collect while was I away on my tour it would reveal that the teeth were better in the fluoridated places: not the 50 to 60 percent difference which we had always claimed resulted from fluoridation, but a significant difference nonetheless. They thought that the decline in tooth decay in the nonfluoridated places must have resulted from the use of fluoride toothpastes and fluoride supplements, and from fluoride applications to the children's teeth in dental clinics, which we had started at the same time as fluoridation. Being a keen fluoridationist, I readily accepted their explanation. Previously, of course, we had assured the public that the only really effective way to reduce tooth decay was to add fluoride to the water supply.
WORLD STUDY TOUR
LESSON FROM HISTORY
So I returned from my study tour reinforced in my pro-fluoridation beliefs by these reassurances from fluoridationists around the world. I expounded these beliefs to my superiors, and was duly appointed chairman of a national "Fluoridation Promotion Committee." I was instructed to inform the public, and my fellow professionals, that water fluoridation resulted in better children's teeth, when compared with places with no fluoridation.
Surprise: Teeth Better Without Fluoridation?
"WHY I CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT WATER FLUORIDATION"
Exerpted from "WHY I CHANGED MY MIND
ABOUT WATER FLUORIDATION"