6 American Dental Association Scientific Information on Fluoridation The ADA’s policies regarding community water fluoridation are based on the best available scientific knowledge. This body of knowledge results from the efforts of nationally recognized scientists who have conducted research using the scientific method, have drawn appropriate balanced conclusions based on their research findings and published their results in refereed (peer-reviewed) professional journals that are widely held or circulated. Studies showing the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation have been confirmed by independent scientific studies conducted by a number of nationally and internationally recognized scientific investigators. While opponents of fluoridation have questioned its safety and effectiveness, none of their charges has ever been substantiated by scientific evidence. With the advent of the Information Age, a new type of “pseudo-scientific literature” has developed. The public often sees scientific and technical information quoted in the press, printed in a letter to the editor or distributed via an internet web page. Often the public accepts such information as true simply because it is in print. Yet the information is not always based on research conducted according to the scientific method and the conclusions drawn from research are not always scientifically justifiable. In the case of water fluoridation, an abundance of misinformation has been circulated. Therefore, scientific information from all print and electronic sources must be critically reviewed before conclusions can be drawn. (See Figure 1.) Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion but not his or her own facts. Pseudo-scientific literature can pique a reader’s interest but when read as science, it can be misleading. The scientific validity and relevance of claims made by opponents of fluoridation might be Figure 1. A Guide to Identifying and Using Trustworthy Information Question The Author Actively search for study authors’ intellectual and financial conflicts of interest that may have affected the conduct of the study or results interpretation. Correlation Does Not Imply Causation The fact that two things happen together does not mean that one necessarily causes the other. Mice vs. Humans Wait for studies with human subjects to confirm animal studies’ results before considering applying the research findings in practice. Consider The Big Picture Identify systematic reviews that comprehensively summarize the evidence instead of using single studies that present only a small part of the big picture. High Impact Journals Impact factor and reputation of a journal do not necessarily relate to the quality of the published study in question, so always remain skeptical. The Right Study Design Some clinical questions cannot be studied using the classic randomized control (RCT) study design and non-RCT designs may be a suitable alternative
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