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Communities favor water fluoridation

Dentists play a role in educating the public on its safety, efficacy

May 27, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Marin County, Calif. — An initiative aimed at removing supplemental fluoride from the water here failed, in part, local leaders say, because people listened to their dentists.

“We heard that, towards the end, the group (gathering signatures for the anti-fluoridation ballot issue) was having a very difficult time getting people to sign and a very common reason was ‘because my dentist told me not to,’” Marin County Dental Society President Dr. Rita Lanphier and trustee Dr. Alan Cascio said in a May letter to supporters.

Those opposing fluoridation in the county of about 260,000 residents had until May 9 to collect 11,000 signatures that would have required the local water district to stop using fluoride in water until the water district provided to its customers a list of all chemicals in the water and “a written statement verifying the fluoridating chemical’s safety for ingestion, once introduced into the water supply.”

The fluoridation opponents were about 2,500 signatures short, according to the Marin County Dental Society.

Marin Municipal Water District has fluoridated its water for more than 30 years, according to the district website, after a majority of voters approved it in 1972 and again in 1978.

Collier County, Florida
Thanks in part to local dentists and physicians sharing the value of fluoridation with the public, commissioners here voted 4-1 in May to maintain community water fluoridation.

The question of whether to remove fluoridation came after a citizen petitioned the commissioners to stop the practice, launching a months-long discussion among county leaders, dental and medical professionals and residents.

Dr. Scott Tomar, professor at the University of Florida College of Dentistry, was among those who shared with commissioners and the public information about the benefits and safety of community water fluoridation.

“What I tried to convey is I’ve spent my life as a dentist and as a public health worker. If there were any doubt in my mind about the safety of community water fluoridation, I would not be advocating it. I would not have raised my own two kids drinking it,” Dr. Tomar said. “I’ve spent my life promoting health and well-being. Why would I, or any of these groups whose mission is about public health, endorse community water fluoridation if it wasn’t safe and effective?”

The county’s water system has about 160,000 customers, according to the county website.

Downingtown, Pennsylvania
The Downingtown Municipal Water Authority board voted in May to continue water fluoridation for this borough.

The water authority, which serves about 3,500 customers, had notified the public in March that it intended to cease fluoridation. After Dr. Karin Brian, a Downingtown dentist, notified the Dental Society of Chester County and Delaware County about the notice, “a member awareness campaign ensued,” Dr. Brian said.

The society encouraged local dentists to contact the water authority and share facts about the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation. Dr. Brian, other dentists and dental team members also attended water authority meetings.

“I believe water authority board members considered the letters and emails that were received, which were more in favor of keeping the fluoride in versus removal,” Dr. Brian said.  “The board of directors realized the benefit of water fluoridation to the community, despite the cost to residents to maintain and upgrade the system.”

Albuquerque, New Mexico
The water utility authority here voted 4-2 in May to remove proposed funding for supplemental drinking water fluoridation, according to the water authority web site.

About $250,000 had been budgeted (out of a $212 million total budget) for the installation of fluoridation equipment with another $250,000 slated for annual operations and maintenance.

 “We are disappointed that the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority staff unilaterally discontinued the 40-year practice of supplement fluoridation,” said New Mexico Dental Association President Dr. Michael Law. “By ignoring the public health benefits supplemental water fluoridation provides, the ABCWUA has put the oral health of our most vulnerable populations, the young and the underprivileged, at risk.”

Newport, Oregon
Most voters in Newport said “no” — 2,335 to 1,315 — to a resolution in May asking whether the local water authority should resume a fluoridation program. The city had been fluoridated until 2005, when it was suspended in part because of physical limitations in the city’s chemical room, according to city documents. Before that, the city had been fluoridated after residents voted to support it in 1962.