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21-year fluoridation advisory committee member to retire

August 20, 2015

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of Thomas Reeves and Dr. Paul Landman
Recognition: Thomas Reeves, left, will retire later this year after 21 years serving on the ADA National Fluoridation Advisory Committee. Here he receives a Council’s Choice Award in 2004 from Dr. Paul Landman, former chair of ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.
Thomas Reeves, a 21-year member of the ADA National Fluoridation Advisory Committee valued for his expertise in the engineering aspects of water fluoridation, announced his retirement in June.

Mr. Reeves in 2003 retired from the federal government as a fluoridation engineer after 32 years in the federal system. He will leave the advisor committee after ADA 2015 — America’s Dental Meeting, Nov. 5-10 in Washington, D.C.

The Georgia resident, who will be 77 in September, has been providing assistance with community water fluoridation since the 1960s, when less than half of the U.S. population was served by fluoridated water.  He joined NFAC in 1994.

As of 2012, nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population is served by fluoridated public water supplies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Mr. Reeves said the increase in the percentage of fluoridated communities is the biggest change he witnessed during his career.

“I remember our goal in the 1970s was to get around 65 percent — and it seemed like a long way off at the time,” he told ADA News.

A Nebraska native who earned a masters degree in Environmental Health Engineering at the University of Kansas, Mr. Reeves spent much of his career with CDC.

In his role with the government, he visited many states and countries, including Japan, South Korea, Brunei, Kuwait and South Africa, where he inspected water fluoridation facilities and helped to inform and educate fluoridation groups.

“Mr. Reeves is well known by many people in communities across the U.S. who have worked to bring fluoridation to their communities,” said Jane McGinley, manager for fluoridation activities at the ADA. “His expertise and willingness to be of assistance will be sorely missed.”

In 1995, he attended a 50th anniversary celebration of fluoridated water in Grand Rapids, Michigan — the first community in the world to adjust the level of fluoride in its water supply. He recalls speaking to a senior dentist at the commemoration ceremony who told Mr. Reeves he used to regularly make dentures as wedding gifts for young brides and grooms — a tradition that died out in part because of fluoridated water.

“It really, really changed the culture,” Mr. Reeves said of water fluoridation, adding that his two daughters who grew up with fluoridated water never had cavities as youngsters. One of his daughters got her first cavity at age 40, he said.

“That’s common,” he said. “Through her school days, she and all of her friends — none of them had cavities.”

As a highly valued and respected member of NFAC, Mr. Reeves played an important role on the advisory committee as an expert consultant on the engineering aspects of fluoridation, committee members said.

His proficiency on the subject was important, said NFAC member and ADA fluoridation spokesman Dr. Howard Pollick, who is also a health services clinical professor in the department of preventive and restorative dental sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Mr. Reeves’ service to the ADA provided considerable expertise, not only on the engineering aspects of fluoridation, but also because of his experience in providing expert testimony and assistance to many communities,” Dr. Pollick said. “With the other members of NFAC, he was dedicated, forthright, considerate and jovial in the discussions that provided guidance to the recommendations made for the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations to consider to promote and advance fluoridation in the cause of primary prevention of tooth decay.”

Mr. Reeves earned several honors during his career, including a Fluoridation Merit Award from the ADA, Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and the Centers for Disease Control; and an ADA CAPIR’s Council’s Choice Award. Among other awards he earned include an engineering literary award from the U.S. Public Health Service.