New fluoride debate falters

Characters debate the “fluoride conspiracy” in Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove

What is it with these anti-fluoride campaigners – and particularly their leaders? They make a song and dance about having “science on their side.” They will heavily promote the latest research and papers if they can argue that they confirm their bias. And they will email politicians or make submissions to local bodies making scientific claims – often with citations and long lists of references.

But we simply can not get them to enter into a good faith scientific discussion of the sort I suggested in Do we need a new fluoride debate?

I thought this was going to happen. Bill Osmunson, the current Direct of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), had agreed and even produced an initial article for posting. But he has now pulled out and asked me not to post his article. Apparently, my critique of a recent paper by him and his colleagues from FAN (see Flaw and porkie in anti-fluoride report claiming a flaw in Canadian study) was the straw that broke the camels back as far as he was concerned.

Talk about tiptoeing around a discussion partner. How can one have a discussion with someone this sensitive?

Excuses, excuses!

This is the explanation he gives for his withdrawal from the planned exchange:

“I have second thoughts about a discussion with you.  Do not publish my comments.*

After reading your comments in response to Neurath, it became obvious that you have no interest in discovering the truth or protecting the public.  Nor do you have reasonable judgment to evaluate research.

You do have good mechanical skills, but not judgment.

You correctly take weaker arguments and point out they are weak.  But you do not comment or appreciate the main more powerful issues.  Your comments make it sound like there is no value because some points have lower value.  Only a person who carefully rereads McLaren and Neurath, and then your comments understands some of your points are valid and you have missed others which are powerful.

In addition, you use derogatory, unprofessional mocking terms to attack the person instead of the issues.  I’m not interested in being your porky or sparky or pimp.

You are unprofessional and are not worth the time.”

  • The “comments” Bill refers to are a 55-page pdf file he sent me as the first post in our exchange. We were discussing a shorter form more suitable for a blog post when he decided to back out.

Mind you, in a previous email he had acknowledged that his mates (presumably in FAN) were unhappy about him participating in this good-faith scientific exchange. He wrote:

“Several people have told me not to respond to you, because you are unprofessional with your statements and comments.  You attack the messenger instead of the message and you have such severe bias and faith in fluoride that you must have worked for the tobacco companies to learn your strident blind bias.  
OK, I gave you a try once before and found you to be violent with your personal attacks and lack of judgment.”
 Sounds like “excuses, excuses,” to me. Surely I am not such a horrible person? I asked Bill to identify anything in my exchange with Paul Connett (see The Fluoride Debate) where I had behaved in the way he charged. He couldn’t. And I challenge anyone else to identify such behaviour on my part in that exchange.

Bill Osmunson and his mates claim I behaved badly in this exchange with Paul Connett – but they refuse to give a single example

 I can only conclude that the people at FAN are unable to provide good scientific arguments to support their case. They may well produce documents with lists of citations and references with “sciency” sounding claims. But they will not allow their claims to undergo the sort of critique normal in the scientific community.
Still – I am willing to be proven wrong. if Bill feels that he doesn;t have the scientific background for this sort of exchange perhaps Chris Neurath, Harvey Limeback or one of the other authors from FAN of the article I critiqued in Flaw and porkie in anti-fluoride report claiming a flaw in Canadian study) could take his place.
The offer is open.

12 responses to “New fluoride debate falters

  1. I wish I had a dollar for every time an antifluoridationist had left a discussuon with me in a huff, claiming “personal attacks” and other such nonsense. At first I would reread my comments, scratching my head to see where I had personally attacked anyone or anything other than the claims that were made. After awhile I finally concluded that whining about personal attacks was just a face-saving measure to cloak the obvious reality that they had no valid arguments against the facts and evidence I presented. The claims of “personal attacks” and that I was somehow lying, were, and are, nothing but projection of their own personalities and flaws unto me, and any other fluoridation proponent who expose their unsubstantiated nonsense for exactly what it is.

    So, c’mon, Bill. Stop your whining. I’m sure you’re reading this. Enlighten us all as to what you believe you know about fluoridation. Does the Director of FAN really have so little confidence that his arguments will not stand up to proper scrutiny?

    Or, on second thought…..maybe you’d better just stick to FAN rallies where your bias is confirmed and your ego bolstered.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  2. Actually, this probably characterizes Osmunson’s breech with reality as much as anything:

    “I agree with the public health position that on a highly contagious, lethal disease that governments have full control to do virtually anything to the public,” Osmunson said.
    “However, dental caries is not highly contagious and it’s not lethal,” he said. Caries is the medical term for tooth or bone decay.


    A dentist proclaiming that dental caries is not lethal? Hmmmm……


    B. J Hist Dent. 1999 Mar;47(1):11-3.
    Toothaches and death.
    Clarke JH1.

    C. Deamonte Driver

    If the Director of the Fluoride Action Network does not even understand that dental decay is a very dangerous infection occurring in close proximity to the brain, with a direct pathway to the rest of the body via a common bloodstream……an infection that most certainly can, and has been, fatal, then it’s understandable that he would not want to get into an online debate on fluoridation with someone who obviously is far more educated on the issue than is he.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  3. Steve, while totally accepting the truth of your observations in regard to dangers of dental disease, it can’t go without comment that unfortunate individual the first link was also a victim of the ghastly insurance based US health system where not infrequently people choose to go untreated because of high costs and fees. Not that NZ is any better in the dental sector, for historic reasons dental and visual care are areas excluded from our public health system. The exception to me seems bizarre.


  4. I agree, Richard. Access to dental care in the US is abominable…..a battle I’ve been fighting for decades. The point is, though, that dental decay is a serious infection which can be as lethal as any other infection. If it wasn’t, Dramonte Driver would probably still be alive today. That we have such a problem with access to healthcare is one of the strongest reasons for preventive measures such as fluoridation. Prevention is always the best cure.

    Osmunson’s statement that dental decay is not lethal was incredibly ignorant for anyone with a modicum of education, far moreso for a dentist who should certainly have a better understanding of the disease he treats than that comment demonstrates.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  5. I also found Bill Osmunson’s discounting of the problems of tooth decay inhumane.

    Death may be a relatively rare result but there are far more negative effects we should be concerned about as well. People growing up with badly decayed teeth suffer all sorts of health problems – but also very important mental health problems. This affects their ability to learn and their future in life – socially and work-wise.

    He pretends to be concerned about the unsupported effects of low concentration of F on IQ – and ignores the well-supported effects of poor dental health on IQ, learning and life prospects. And the pain – which for children is horrible.

    I think the anti-fluoride people rub in their inhumane attitudes by attempting to prevent others from access to an effective social health policy. Most of the anti-fluoride activists already accommodate their hangups by using filters or different water sources. It is evil of them to argue personal cases while really attempting to deny others.


  6. NZ dental health is not easily available to low income families. My GP has had to perform extractions because his patients can’t afford to go to the dentist. I would agree that it makes sense to apply the same rules for dental health as general health, and this is a long-standing issue in NZ, not one brought about recently by any particular ideology

    However, to go from this to the conclusion that anti-fluoride activists are evil seems a bit of a leap


  7. Andy,

    “My GP has had to perform extractions because his patients can’t afford to go to the dentist.”

    If this is true, then it is highly likely that your GP is working outside of his/her scope of practice and is risking his/her practicing certificate.

    In NZ doctors are not trained in dentistry. In order to gain dentistry as a scope of practice there is a university degree to complete from the School of Dentistry. Very few people complete both degrees, with most subsequently becoming maxillofacial surgeons rather than GPs.

    As to the cost of extractions – these are one of the cheaper options that NZ dentistry offers. I have heard several dentists bemoaning their patients opting for the cheap extraction rather than the more beneficial (and more expensive) tooth conservation treatment, even when subsidies are available for the conservation treatment.


  8. [Completely off topic] Can any dentist reading please inform as to why teeth contain a nerve.

    What is the function of the nerve. (apart from causing unbearable pain when damaged by infection etc]. is the nerve a pressure sensor to moderate chewing and biting or something/


  9. Andy, I used the word “evil” so I guess your comment was aimed at me. But it is strange YOU put up an argument that I did not and use it to claim I went from YOUR argument to claim “anti-fluoride activists are evil.” Clearly, I didn’t.

    What I in fact wrote is “It is evil of them to argue personal cases while really attempting to deny others.”

    I thought this was obvious but perhaps you need a step by step explanation.

    As an example, I have made a personal decision not to eat animal meat. I do not attempt to impose my hangup on others – I simply act responsibly and source non-animal protein sources for myself (in the way that many people use alternative water sources or water filters because of their personal objection to chlorine, organic tastes, fluoride, etc.).

    If I attempted to deny animal meat to others, particularly if this led to pain, disfigurement and loss of life advantages for the children involved, then I would be acting in an evil way. My ACTION would be evil – even if am the most lovely person in the world (which I often think I am. 🙂 ).


  10. Off topic, but good question, nonetheless, Richard. The nerve and pulp tissue of teeth play a role in the development of those teeth. After that point, the necessity of the nerve is debatable. As countless root canals have demonstrated, the tooth can survive and function just fine without it. Probably the greatest value of the dental nerve in my opinion is as an alert to damage. Without a nerve, a tooth can easily decay to the point of non-salvageability before the problem is even detected. With the nerve…..well, you know the answer to that. This is one primary function of nerves throughout the body. Pain instigates us to resolve a problem before it gets completely out of hand.

    Steven D. Slott, FDS


  11. Thanks Steve, though in the evolutionary scenario there was probably f.a. a palaeolithic, or earlier, hominoid could do to resolve any problems, they probably just endured and/or died in terrible pain.

    It seems to me a case where evolution delivered a less than optimum outcome. A tooth made up completely of enamel would be more durable.

    Dawkins ought to cite this in his bag of examples in the case against intelligent design.


  12. Could be, Richard, but even the prehistorics may have found an aloe plant, cloves, or something else to relieve their pain. They may have taken a stone and knocked out the tooth before the infection could kill them. Who knows. The main thing is that, assuming some sort of similar innervation as present day, they would been alerted by the pain that something was amiss and required correction somehow, some way.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


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