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Fluoridation victories: Campaigns spur local coalitions across the nation

Voters in three U.S. communities with optimally fluoridated water systems rejected antifluoridation ordinances at the polls last month: Boulder, Colo.; Arcata, Calif.; and Jackman and Moose River, Maine.

Boulder citizens rejected Proposition 2B, an ordinance that would have stopped fluoridation after 37 years. In response to the ballot measure, a coalition of dentists, dental hygienists, Dental Aid (the community's not-for-profit dental clinic that serves low-income and uninsured patients) and private citizens formed a "Vote No on 2B Committee" to educate the public about fluoridation through a variety of vehicles.

Committee members produced full-page newspaper ads in local newspapers listing the names of some 400 dental professionals and health organizations that support and endorse fluoridation.

They submitted opinion pieces to local newspapers, met with local media, spoke at service clubs and organized debates, posted campaign signs throughout the city and encouraged dentists to education their patients about the benefits of fluoride. The committee received support from the three major newspapers, the city council, the League of Women Voters, the local and state medical societies and the local and state dental hygienists' associations.

The Boulder/Broomfield County Dental Society is collecting a file of all the press coverage, advertisements and details of campaign efforts.

"We're hoping this file can help with other fluoridation battles in the future," said BBCDS President Heidi Winquist. "Battling the antifluoridationists isn't a cookie-cutter operation. While all campaigns need signs, advertising and media effort, the individual dentist sending a letter to each of his/her patients about the issue is just as important. We're very grateful to the members of the dental community who helped us fight this fight."

"The same ballot issue continues to appear in states across the nation each year," said Colorado Dental Association President Rhett Murray. "As professionals, we need to know the facts about fluoridation to educate our staff members and to spread the word to our patients."

In Arcata, voters overwhelmingly rejected Measure W, an ordinance that would have discontinued water fluoridation. The measure was rejected by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.

The communities of Jackman and Moose River in Maine also rejected a referendum intended to discontinue community water fluoridation. Voters in Jackman voted 207-121 and in Moose River 42-30 to retain fluoridation.

Voters in New Bedford, Mass., Grand Ledge Mich., and Skagit County, Wash., will also receive the benefits of optimally fluoridated water in the near future since they passed measures to initiate fluoridation in their communities.

Ballot measures to initiate fluoridation in Page, Ariz., and Howland and Lincoln, Maine; failed to pass.

"The Maine voters may have rejected the fluoridation measure since much of their communities' water supply goes to a paper mill rather than to the homes of private citizens," said Dr. Lisa P. Howard, Maine Dental Association president and member of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. "With mills closing here, the economy is a big issue for voters."

Dr. Howard, who also serves as chair of the ADA's National Fluoridation Advisory Committee, says the local volunteers who spearheaded the initiative will document and evaluate their efforts to consider a possible initiative in the future.

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