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ADA discusses fluoride at public health event

November 10, 2015

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of Alice Horowitz, Dr. Myron Allukian and Dr. Jane Grover
Fluoride facts: Alice Horowitz, left, Dr. Myron Allukian and Dr. Jane Grover spoke Nov. 2 about the history, benefits and current issues surrounding community water fluoridation. 

ADA staff and volunteers participated in a panel session about community water fluoridation Nov. 2 at the American Public Health Association’s 143rd Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Dr. Jane Grover, director of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, addressed session attendees about being an effective advocate for community water fluoridation, especially as voters in communities across the U.S. are taking up the issue on the ballot. Those involved in local efforts should be knowledgeable, organized and able to present facts about the benefits and safety of fluoride early on, she said.

“Prepare when you don’t have to prepare,” Dr. Grover said, adding that organizing a group of local health care providers, parents and civic leaders who understand the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation — and will share it with their neighbors —  is key.

“When you have local people carrying that message for you, it will be very effective,” Dr. Grover said.

Another speaker at the session, Alice Horowitz, Ph.D., a member of the ADA council’s National Advisory Committee on Health Literacy in Dentistry, discussed the relationship between health literacy and fluoridation.

People with lower levels of health literacy, or the ability to access and comprehend basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions, have fewer dental visits; higher caries rates; lower levels of understanding about caries prevention; and higher no-show rates, Dr. Horowitz said.

“We need to educate, educate, educate — the public, all health providers and policy makers that community water fluoridation is the cornerstone of caries prevention,” Dr. Horowitz said.

People with low health literacy also have lower “fluoride literacy,” which can result in not drinking fluoridated tap water and increased tooth decay, she said.

Other speakers at the panel included Dr. William Maas, advisor to the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, who offered an economic analysis of the benefits of community water fluoridation; and also Dr. Scott Presson, who directs the Centers for Disease Control’s Dental Public Health residency program. Dr. Myron Allukian, American Public Health Association past president, moderated the panel.

Dr. Presson offered an overview of state and national community water fluoridation programs. Dr. Presson said 74.6 percent of public water system users receive optimally fluoridated water as of 2012, compared to 62.2 percent in 1992.

The ADA endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe and effective for preventing tooth decay. The Association, along with state and local dental societies, continues to work with federal, state, local agencies and community coalitions to increase the number of communities benefiting from water fluoridation.

For more information on sessions and speakers at the Oct. 31-Nov. 4 APHA Annual Meeting, visit