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Fluoride voted back in Vermont town's water

Bradford, Vt.—At a special town meeting Feb. 26, residents of Bradford, Vt., voted 50 to 38 to reinstate fluoridation in the municipal water supply.

Fluoride in the small town—population 2,500—about 35 miles southeast of Montpelier was quietly removed almost a year ago, but residents only learned of it in November 2012, from a flyer in their water bills, said Dr. Robert Munson, a Bradford dentist. The town began fluoridating in 1971.

"I was furious when I found out," he said. "The flyer said the water and sewer commissioners had voted 4-0 to discontinue fluoridation. They didn't ask for input from residents. They didn't seek advice from local medical and dental professionals. And they didn't tell anyone for months. So I just had to get involved."

Dr. Munson and two other local dentists, Dr. James Barton and his son Dr. Charles Barton, started a petition to hold a special town meeting to address the issue.

"We needed 45 signatures," he said. "We got 70 and it took us less than a week." Dr. Munson said he also consulted with fluoridation managers at the ADA and the Vermont State Dental Society to arm the small advocacy team with the scientific information they needed to address concerns that were being raised in the community.

He said many of his patients expressed dismay at having to purchase fluoride supplements for their children. "I have a patient with five children and she was unhappy about how this decision affected her bottom line," Dr. Munson said. "I can get the medication for about $11 for a three-month supply, but she has a cost that is five times greater to protect the dental health of all her children."

According to news reports from the Valley News, some 95 people attended the special meeting and residents debated the issue for more than an hour.

"It just shocked me—the amount of misinformation out there," he said. "We had been fluoridated here since 1971, but so many younger people were simply not aware of the benefits of fluoridation and believed a lot of things they read on the Internet that just aren't accurate. I had all the information on the science, safety and effectiveness of fluoridation in my hand, thanks to the folks at the ADA and the VSDS, but the opposition was unwilling to  look at it."

Dr. Munson said he was thankful that his older patients—many of them grandparents—came out to support fluoridation because they understood its benefits for their own children and grandchildren.

"It was an eye-opening experience," he said. "My advice to dentists in other towns is to stay involved. Pick good friends—like the people at the ADA and the VSDS—and be ready for a fight."