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Fluoridation finds challenges, success this spring

June 30, 2015 Champions of fluoride have been working hard in several towns and states to support community water fluoridation this spring.

Here is a round-up of some of the activity:

Rockport, Massachusetts – Voters supported a measure to continue fluoridation May 5 with a 1,186 to 800 vote, according to news reports. Credited by some as the driving force behind an unusually large voter turnout (36.6 percent) for a town election that featured only one contested race, the vote followed a series of heated meetings.

Dr. William Bebrin, who helped lead efforts supporting community water fluoridation including authoring a letter signed by most local dentists, said the overwhelming win was a pleasant surprise given the vocal opposition.

"Most of the (local) dentists stepped up and made it a point to speak to each and every patient who came into their offices about the benefits of fluoride and why they should go out and vote," Dr. Bebrin said. "(Voters) believed the science and the experts – they believe in deferring to those people and to the local board of health, so that did it."


Dr. Barr


Dr. Toole
Oneida, New York – The local city council voted down the opportunity to fluoridate 5-1 on May 5. Fluoridating Oneida would have also benefited residents of 10 surrounding communities.

Dr. Sam Barr, a local dentist who initiated pro-fluoridation support and led the effort in Oneida, attributed the loss in part to outspoken and organized anti fluoride activists.

"The vote occurred in an election year, and the elected leaders, I believe, voted what they perceived to be public opinion by a politically active group, rather than what they knew the science to be," said Dr. Barr.
    
Arkansas – In Arkansas, proposed state legislation, HB 1355, which would have effectively rescinded the state fluoridation mandate, passed the house but did not receive the five votes necessary to pass out of committee to the full senate.

Arkansas' legislative session ended in May.

The Arkansas State Dental Association testified against the measure in both house and senate committees, said ASDA Executive Director Billy Tarpley.

"ASDA president Dr. Drew Toole presented compelling testimony on two occasions before the Senate Public Health Committee basically to expose the bill for what is was: an anti fluoridation bill masquerading as a local control issue," said Mr. Tarpley.

Mr. Tarpley said he credits dentists who responded to the dental society's calls to action for the lack of comprehensive support for the bill.

"They contacted their senators in a powerful fashion to encourage them not to interfere with community water fluoridation, which is good public policy," Mr. Tarpley said.

Missouri – In Missouri, proposed state legislation that would require 90-day advance notice to state officials and customers of water systems that intend to vote to cease fluoridation passed the house but not in the senate. Session ended in May.

Missouri Dental Association representatives say a filibuster targeting unrelated legislation in the Senate led to the fluoride bill's failure to get passage. Officials hope to bring it back for consideration next year.

"The biggest benefit is that the legislation would allow advance notification of the removals of fluoride from water systems. At this time there is no advanced notice and often times the Association, dentists and consumers are notified only when the removal of fluoride has already occurred," said Vicki Wilbers, MDA executive director.

Bethel, Maine – Voters in this town of about 2,500 on June 9 opted to continue their community water fluoridation program. The community's water has been fluoridated since 1970, and the recent challenge to fluoridation came from a Bethel business owner who raised concerns about fluoridation.

Supporters of fluoridation, including local dentists, hygienists, physicians and nurses, wrote letters of support to the local paper and focused on getting voters to the polls. Especially helpful was a hygienist, Joann Moulton, at Dr. John Mason's practice in Bethel, where many of the town's residents receive dental care, said John Bastey, director of governmental relations for the Maine Dental Association.

Mr. Bastey also said he made sure copies of ADA's Fluoridation Facts were sent to local media, the town selectmen and town manager.  

"If I were to pick the reason we won, I would say having a local dentist or dental professional take the lead was the single most important step," Mr. Bastey said. "It needs to be someone everyone knows and as well as a person who is passionate about the job.  As I go down the list of towns where we won, the dentists, hygienists and dental assistants in each town all fit that description.  That's the key to dealing with small town fluoridation issues in Maine – find local champions and then help them carry the message."

Extending the availability of optimally fluoridated water is one of the Association's eight Action for Dental Health initiatives. The ADA has set a goal to bring fluoridated water to 80 percent of the U.S. population served by public water systems by 2020.

For more information about water fluoridation, visit www.ada.org/fluoride or contact Jane McGinley at mcginleyj@ada.org.