The Harvard School of Dental Medicine is concerned about the misinformation on community water fluoridation presented during the Dr. Oz Show on February 1, 2016 with guest Erin Brockovich. We enthusiastically welcome the presentation of topics related to oral health on influential programs such as the Dr. Oz Show, but the lack of scientific support behind claims made on Feb. 1 left us alarmed and disappointed. The slanted views Ms. Brockovich expressed about fluoridation lacked scientific basis and, in fact, directly contradicted the robust body of evidence and resulting scientific consensus that support the safety of fluoride.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledge community water fluoridation as one of the most important public health achievements in the 20th century. Over 120 reputable organizations from around the world support fluoridation. The Deans of the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard School of Public Health agree that community water fluoridation is an effective and safe public health measure for people of all ages.
Today’s society of expanding voices and non-hierarchical discussions of health information provide important opportunities to reach new audiences in exciting ways, including through entertainment television. However, this unrestricted information age also demands increased responsibility from experts and health professionals, particularly those of strong social influence such as Dr. Oz, to uphold the highest ethical standards and to abide by principles that will not lead to potential harm. As we’ve learned through childhood vaccinations in the United States, allowing celebrity status to promote advocacy at the expense of scientific accuracy can cause detrimental harm to the health of our children and communities.
We hope the Dr. Oz show will present important public health issues, including community water fluoridation, in future episodes. We agree with the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Public Health Dr. Alfredo Morabia that discussing these topics challenges us all to continually improve and make public health better. However, by evading scientific evidence in these discussions, the Dr. Oz Show not only fails to strengthen public health, but also undermines the efforts of thousands of public health practitioners committed to disease prevention and health promotion around the world.
The next time the Dr. Oz Show discusses community water fluoridation, please consider the evidence.