Friday, December 29, 2006

Nick the teeth

We Williamses really know how to celebrate Christmas. Here's an example of a typical holiday afternoon.

Last week, I emailed my brother, a dentist, about the organic toothpaste question. Were they any good, I wanted to know. "The big question is, does it contain fluoride," came the reply. "Otherwise you might as well brush your teeth in dirty dishwater."

On a walk yesterday, he revisited the topic. "I saw your toothpaste on the windowsill and it doesn't contain fluoride," he said.

"Ah yes, I'd been meaning to ask you about that Nick," I said. "So, why is it that you need fluoride in your toothpaste?" "Because it helps prevent demineralization of the teeth and actually remineralizes them when they've been attacked by plaque," he said, helpfully (actually he said something much more complicated and long-winded than this, but I didn't have a dictaphone so have probably got it wrong. The long and short I made of it is that fluoride is proven to not only help prevent decay but also reverse decay that's already underway). "Ah," I nodded, knowingly, "And can you tell me why some people have a problem with it and go for non-fluoride toothpastes?" "Because they're bloody hippies who think they know everything," he responded moderately. "But they don't know what they're talking about." "Ah," I said again, "and any other reason?" "Well, there are concerns about a link between fluoride and bone cancer" my Dad piped up. "But at the concentration found in toothpaste you'd have to eat about fifty tubes and even then it probably wouldn't do you any harm," added Nick. He then offered to compile me a reading list on fluoride and the benefits thereof.

To be honest, I wasn't sad to find a reason to give up on the chalk toothpaste which does indeed taste like dirty dishwater when I'm brushing my teeth with it. So I declined the reading list and went back to the Colgate (I'll get some of the Tom's of Maine eco-friendly but with fluoride when I get back to the US).

I'd like to add for the record that my brother is a brilliant and very patient dentist. He just doesn't have a lot of time for bloody hippies.

That would be me, then.



At 1:37 PM , Anonymous damo said...

this blog is ace. and will help you to understand why your brother, and me, hate bad science.

i love ben goldacre.


(happy new year to the three of you)


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