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June votes validate fluoridation in three U.S. communities

July 11, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Fluoridation will continue or be reinstated in three U.S. communities after leadership in each municipality voted in favor of the public health measure.

In Durango, Colorado, the June vote came after discussion and pro-fluoridation recommendations from the local chair of the utilities commission, the director of the regional health department and from experts at the state and local levels who shared with the council the benefits and safety of community water fluoridation.

Dr. Angela Pinkerton, president of the San Juan Basin Dental Society, which encompasses Durango, was among the dentists who addressed the council, emphasizing water fluoridation's assistance in preventing dental decay, especially for underserved children.

"I centralized my discussion on personal observation as a pediatric dentist in this area for the last seven years and how surrounding areas without community fluoridation did have a much higher rate of decay than within Durango," said Dr. Pinkerton.

According to local news reports, councilors were swayed when public health advocates noted that fluoridated water helps protect people with limited access to dental care.

"It's a matter of social responsibility," said Councilor Dean Brookie, according to The Durango Herald.

Durango, a city of about 18,000, began fluoridating its water supply in 1956.

In Wellington, Florida, a unanimous city council vote in June will bring fluoridation back to the community of 62,500.

The Wellington council first voted to fluoridate the city's drinking water supplies in 1999, but reversed the vote in 2014, according to city documents.

The vote to bring it back June 28 came after a four-hour meeting at which local dentists, health experts and some residents spoke in favor of the public health benefit. The village utilities director also recommended bringing fluoridation back.

In the end, many council members cited trusting in science and public health experts."It's about this community and doing what's best for all of us," said Mayor Anne Gerwig at the meeting.

Dr. Laurence Grayhills, a dentist in Wellington for more than 30 years, said he "applauds the council for listening to reason and the scientific community" in backing the preventative health measure.

"There was just no scientific opposition," he said, adding that local dentists' and public health professionals' opinions often go a long way in the communities they serve.

"One point I made when addressing council members was that, as a public health care provider for many years, I just didn't see keeping fluoride out of the water supplies as being in the best interest of the community," he said. "As a health care provider, one major emphasis is to prevent disease, not play catch up once it's established."

The Wellington resolution is effectively immediately, according to city documents.

Also in June, the city council in Lebanon, Oregon, voted 3-2 to retain community water fluoridation in the community of about 16,000. Dental advocates attended the meeting to help inform council members and the public.