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Fort Smith flips the switch on fluoridation

March 11, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Fort Smith, Ark. — For the first time, people in this western Arkansas city and nearby communities served by its water system will, starting in March, enjoy the benefits of community water fluoridation.
    
City officials on March 7 began adding fluoride to its drinking water, thanks in part to a grant from Delta Dental Foundation that covered capital costs needed to fluoridate the city's two water plants, according to a news release from the city.
    
The water system serves about 160,000 people in Arkansas and parts of Oklahoma, according to city officials.
    
Many Fort Smith dentists applauded the move.
    

Fluoridation, finally: Carol Amerine, dental program manager in the office of oral health at the Arkansas Department of Health, and Dr. Robert Skinner of Fort Smith, right, celebrate the March 7 launch of the city's water fluoridation program.
"If you're a dentist and have been working to bring water fluoridation to your community, it was very exciting," said Dr. Robert Skinner, a Fort Smith dentist who has been helping educate the community about the proven oral health benefits of water fluoridation and joined city officials for the launch of the fluoridation program. "It was an historic day."
    
In 2011, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill requiring water systems with 5,000 or more customers to fluoridate its water at a level established by the state department of health. Since then, the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation has pledged $7.6 million, including its $2 million grant to Fort Smith, to assist communities with the costs of implementing fluoridation.
    
The city will fluoridate water at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended level of .7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, according to a news release.
    
"This will help so many people," Dr. Skinner said.
    
The ADA endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe and effective for preventing tooth decay. For more information from the ADA about water fluoridation, ADA.org/Fluoride or contact Jane McGinley, ADA manager of fluoridation and preventive health activities, at mcginleyj@ada.org.