08 September 2002
In a report last week, the Medical Research Council called for yet more research (and therefore more lovely funding, I guess) to assess properly the effects of adding fluoride to Britain's water supply. There's so much fluoride in toothpaste, it wails, that proper benchmarks are hard to lay down.
All of which will be grist to the mill of the Green Ink Brigade, that doughty band of Conspiracy Theorist letter writers who blame compulsory water fluoridation for everything from the Kennedy Assassination to Sophie Wessex's wardrobe disasters.
Up here in the remoter parts of Essex, we're on our own water supply, so I don't get anything put in my drinks. But I've another dilemma just now, which will excite the Green Inkers. Fillings.
Personally, I blame the confectionery-industrial complex. I mean, how can anyone be expected to resist a Highland toffee? So hard, so pliable to the suck, so yummy. But there's a price to pay, and it's sitting right in front of me. A filling fell out last week. Must be the third this year. And I haven't been to the dentist yet for any of them.
Looking at this lumpy piece of amalgam, I can't even work out which way it's supposed to go back in, so I guess I'll have to suffer the stripy fish and plastic shipwreck in the gloomy tank, and the old copies of Yachting Monthly, on offer at the dentists. I'm not filled with terror at the prospect: needles and syringes are pretty commonplace to me – after all, I have to give myself a jab every day already. And all those white coats and pink liquids are reassuringly pseudo-medical. But the question remains: what do I get to replace the missing metal?
Now I could just ask them to put new amalgam in the holes. But there's another option, urged by quasi-scientific multiple-sclerosis gurus and Conspiracy Theorists: getting new white fillings instead. The logic for this is something to do with amalgam incorporating mercury, the fumes of which are bad news or something. The exact link between this and MS is a bit fuzzy, but hey – it's all good revenue for the Conspiracists (and the dentists.)
There's no shortage of alarming statistics, particularly now that the internet can bring the horrors of "mercury toxicity" or "negative electrical current" direct to your desktop. But is it all bollocks?
I'm no scientist, but, armed only with my trusty O-levels in chemistry and physics, I can assert that it is. "Negative electrical current" sounds like Star Trek guff, and as to being poisoned by mercury, I reckon I had some symptoms of this MS back in the days when I foolishly boasted of being filling-free.
But what makes it all so attractive, I guess, is that blaming somebody – your dentist, the military, the water tamperers, whoever – gives you a villain for your misfortune. Every effect has a cause, we learn at school. So what's the cause of my MS? Or for energetic five-year-olds dying of meningitis? Or for apparently random strokes, for that matter? Of course, when we ask these questions, we don't really want to know the causes – which are always some impenetrable platitude about immune systems and genetics. What we want is reasons. And, except for the hyper-religious among us, some bloke in a black dress spouting gobbledegook about merciful God seeing every little sparrow fall is cold comfort. Because the reason is: there is no reason. It's all so damn unfair ... but life's like that. If only the religious and the Conspiracy Theorists could see this, we wouldn't hear their nonsense on Thought for the Day or read it in green ink.
None of which goes any way towards helping me with my filling dilemma.
I recognise that the amalgam-is-poison debate is drivel, but those white
ones are better to look at. And isn't it best to be on the safe side? In
this case, no. The fillings are at the back, so nobody will see them anyway.
Amalgam is cheap, and you can't get white stuff on the NHS. Plus those
Green Inkers are out to get me – to switch. That's the clincher.
© Copyright 2002, Independent Newspapers Ltd