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Resolution OKs social media campaign for fluoridation

December 08, 2014

By Stacie Crozier

image of fluoridation icon
In response to reports from dentists and dental associations nationwide of escalating anti-fluoridation messages reaching their communities, the ADA House of Delegates approved a resolution calling for the ADA to implement a proactive social media campaign to promote the safe and positive effects of optimal water fluoridation.

Delegates approved Res. 101H-2014, which allocates $500,000 for marketing and advertising via Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms and optimizing search engines to help ensure that ADA information is prominent in Internet searches. The Association will use a portion of the funding to bolster the staff of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, which assists members and dental societies with fluoridation campaigns and information.

“The campaign will help communities in a struggle very often waged against anti-fluoridation groups that are very media savvy,” said Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president. “The delegates were willing to make an investment that shows the resolve to put prevention first and give it the attention it deserves as an important aspect of the ADA’s Action for Dental Health movement.”

The resolution was introduced by the ADA’s 1st District, said Dr. Jeffery Dow, 1st District trustee.

“Dr. John Fisher, a member of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations from Massachusetts, brought the issue forward because dentists in his area had noticed the threat of negative social media regarding fluoride,” said Dr. Dow. “It was soon apparent that this was a national issue. Via the Internet, it is simple to spread misinformation, but difficult to correct it. The House agreed that being proactive is a necessity and the time was now.”

Dr. Fisher introduced the measure first with his local dental society, the North Shore District Dental Society. The Massachusetts Dental Society approved it and forwarded it to the ADA 1st Trustee District caucus, which submitted it for consideration by the ADA House of Delegates at their meeting in October.

“We’ve had lots of anti-fluoridation activity in our region for about two years,” said. Dr. Fisher, a general dentist in Salem. “We have held some speaker training seminars in the area to teach dentists, hygienists, water engineers and other concerned citizens how to speak proactively about the benefits of water fluoridation to local government representatives — city councils, boards of selectmen and other leaders — and anti-fluoridationists even came to one of our seminars.

Massachusetts, according to 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, ranks 31st in the U.S. for percentage of population with access to fluoridated water at 70 percent. ADA statistics say that since 2011, 46 states in the U.S. faced fluoridation challenges at the state or local level.

“Dentists who practice in areas with high rates of fluoridation may not see the debilitating decay my wife Joy and I saw when we volunteered in nearby communities that aren’t fluoridated. We passed out 1,500 toothbrushes to kids during an oral health literacy program at the Boston Children’s Museum.  More than 10 percent of the kids or their siblings did not have their own toothbrushes. When we volunteered on a mobile dental van, we saw significant, crippling decay in communities without fluoridated water and little or no caries in communities that are fluoridated.”

The social media campaign, Dr. Fisher said, is designed to more aggressively promote the positive effects of fluoridation, including safety, efficacy and cost effectiveness, and to clear up misinformation that local policymakers, citizens and health care providers may be getting from other sources.

Dr. Fisher said that during ADA 2014 — America’s Dental Meeting in October, he informally attended several caucus meetings and encouraged colleagues to do an Internet search on fluoride to see where ADA messages and information came up via common search engines.

“Many times, an ADA message didn’t even make the first page,” Dr. Fisher said. “How many times does anyone go past the first page in a search?

“The time is now for this campaign,” Dr. Fisher added. “We need to allocate funding to get our messages out to dentists and the public. The biggest benefit of this campaign will be the ability to work collaboratively with other groups who are also hard at work promoting the benefits of community water fluoridation.”

The ADA offers a toolkit to help dental societies and local coalitions involved in initiating or trying to retain community water fluoridation programs. Tap in to Your Health: Fluoridation Toolkit, developed by experts from the ADA divisions of Communications and CAPIR and two volunteer advisory groups, contains more than 30 ready-to-use resources available to state and local dental societies, including tips on using social media.

For more details or to access toolkit components, contact your local or state dental society. For technical assistance with a fluoridation campaign, contact Jane McGinley, manager, Fluoridation and Preventive Health Activities for CAPIR, at mcginleyj@ada.org.