Those who can’t recall past condemned to repeat it

The recent public debates on fluoridation of Red Deer drinking water have piqued my interest.

The recent public debates on fluoridation of Red Deer drinking water have piqued my interest.

The debate seems to me to be very similar to the vaccination debates, mainly in that those who oppose mass vaccination seem to be ignorant of the great benefits to public health that have resulted from it.

Mass death, incapacitation and suffering from diseases controlled by vaccines seem to have passed out of the popular consciousness as beyond the memory of those living.

So too does the fluoride debate ignore the widespread benefits of fluoridation, and the lack of any proven link to any disease or health condition.

Those wishing to be more informed need only do quick google search to find reputable, science-based information, such as the excellent article published on the CDC website (Center for Disease Control, which in popular memory might be more remembered as an episode on The Walking Dead): Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Fluoridation of Drinking Water to Prevent Dental Caries (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4841a1.htm).

Notable extracts from this article are:

l The effectiveness of community water fluoridation in preventing dental caries prompted rapid adoption of this public health measure in cities throughout the United States.

As a result, dental caries declined precipitously during the second half of the 20th century. For example, the mean DMFT among persons aged 12 years in the United States declined 68 per cent, from 4.0 in 1966-1970 to 1.3 in 1988-1994.

l Water fluoridation is especially beneficial for communities of low socioeconomic status (18). These communities have a disproportionate burden of dental caries and have less access than higher income communities to dental-care services and other sources of fluoride. Water fluoridation may help reduce such dental health disparities.

l Among the most striking results of water fluoridation is the change in public attitudes and expectations regarding dental health. Tooth loss is no longer considered inevitable, and increasingly adults in the United States are retaining most of their teeth for a lifetime.

For example, the percentage of persons aged 45 to 54 years who had lost all their permanent teeth decreased from 20 per cent in 1960-1962 (28) to 9.1 per cent in 1988-1994 (CDC, unpublished data, 1999). The oldest post-Second World War “baby boomers” will reach age 60 years in the first decade of the 21st century, and more of that birth cohort will have a relatively intact dentition at that age than any generation in history.

The old saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” seems to apply here. Perhaps better rephrased as: Those who undo the work of the past generations condemn the rest of us to repeat the past.

Jason Snider

Red Deer

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