Local dentists back fluoridation around the U.S.
April 24, 2017
In the field for fluoridation: Dr. David Lurye, left, of Ridgway, Colo., and Dr. Dean Brown, of Durango, Colo., stake campaign yard signs around Durango in March to help get out the vote for a ballot question that asked whether town officials should prohibit community water fluoridation in the city of about 18,000. Both dentists are past presidents of the Colorado Dental Association.
Community water fluoridation was on the minds of city councils and voters this spring, with some choosing to back the public health measure and others disregarding it.
In each instance, local dentists played a part in educating community members about the safety and benefits of water fluoridation, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Here are summaries of some of the votes.
Voters here April 4 overwhelmingly said no to a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited adding fluoride to the city's water system beginning this year.
The vote total included 3,094 against the anti-fluoridation proposal and 1,735 supporting it, according to the city's website.
The issue came up for a vote after a local group of 34 voters filed a petition with the city council.
Many voters educated themselves on the facts of water fluoridation before hitting the ballot box, said Dr. Angela Pinkerton, a pediatric dentist in Durango, a city of about 18,000. Local health care professionals helped educate the public, she said.
"Without a doubt, this vote went the way it did because the medical and dental community rallied support in favor of fluoridation," said Dr. Pinkerton, who spoke at city council study sessions on the topic, called voters, wrote an editorial for the newspaper and took other steps to make her endorsement of community water fluoridation known.
"I felt my most powerful resource for discussing benefits of fluoride in Durango was my direct observation in patient caries risk between fluoridated and nonfluoridated areas," said Dr. Pinkerton. "It was evident children from nonfluoridated areas had more cavities. I directed patients to the ADA website for detailed information about water fluoridation."
Dr. Pinkerton said she also engaged in "chairside conversations" with parents of her young patients to discuss the benefits of fluoridation and the ballot issue.
"Water fluoridation is providing a layer of protection for our teeth throughout our lives," she said. "This includes protecting baby teeth from cavities before toothpastes and mouth rinses can be used all the way to protecting our adult teeth from root surface caries in our geriatric population. Fluoridation has been proven to be safe and cost effective for our communities."
The Fellsmere City Council voted 5-0 April 6 to reverse a decision that would have stopped community water fluoridation in this city of about 5,400.
The vote came after council members heard from dental and public health professionals about the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation.
Tadd Richards, a dental hygienist at a local community health center, said at the meeting that he noticed a marked improvement in the amount of decay on children's teeth since the city began its fluoridation program about five years ago.
"What I've noticed in the past five years is the amount of decay is smaller," said Mr. Richards.
Earlier this year, the Fellsmere city manager proposed cutting the $4,000 from its annual budget that funds community water fluoridation, according to a local news report. But the issue came up for a vote when local health organizations protested the move, according to TCPalm, a local newspaper.
The city council here April 3 said no with a 4-3 vote to a proposal that would have resumed community water fluoridation in this city of about 5,100.
Council member and dentist Dr. David Steele, who said he regularly monitors the local water supply, brought the resolution to the board following months of public discussion.
"Much to my surprise, I have found that many in the small community of Alexandria are not supporting fluoridation," he said, citing widespread consumption of inaccurate reports online about fluoridation.
The council heard testimony supporting fluoridation from another local dentist and a representative from the Indiana State Department of Health, Dr. Steele said.
"Unfortunately, there are many who look for reasons to spew information that is false," Dr. Steele said. "Dental professionals need to speak up at government meetings, school boards, city councils and educate others. Physicians are also a great source of support along with hospital administrators."
On March 28 the Arab, Alabama, water board finalized a decision it had reached in 2015 to stop adding fluoride to its water supplies.
The action came after a yearlong court battle between the city of Arab and its water board that ended in December when the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the water board's ability to cease fluoridation despite the city's objections. The Arab Water Works board had first decided to remove fluoridation in 2015.
The motion came despite some outspoken local dentists and other health care professionals, including Dr. John York, who has a dental office in Arab, a city of about 8,000.
"I really thought if I presented them with solid science regarding the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation, board members would change course," Dr. York said. "I was sadly mistaken."
Prior to the March vote, Dr. York had spoken publicly at water board meetings, attempting to educate the public about the benefits of water fluoridation. He cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's denial of a petition
earlier this year seeking a ban on what it called the "addition of fluoridation chemicals to water."
The EPA denied the petition because the agency concluded that the petition had "not set forth a scientifically defensible basis to conclude that any persons have suffered neurotoxic harm as a result of exposure of fluoride in the U.S. through the purposeful addition of fluoridation chemicals to drinking water or otherwise from fluoride exposure in the U.S.," Dr. York said at the meeting, quoting from the EPA document.
Dr. York also shared anecdotal examples of children in nonfluoridated communities having to go to the operating room to have teeth removed.
"This is not the kind of things we want to happen here in Arab, but I'm afraid that's exactly what is coming our way without continued community water fluoridation," he said.
Though the vote did not support fluoridation, Dr. York said he doesn't feel his effort was wasted.
"Know that the efforts behind community water fluoridation in your community are very valid," he said.
The city council here voted 4-3 to fluoridate public water supplies in this city of about 12,500.
The council vote comes after about 57 percent of Wilmington voters said "yes" in November 2016 to a ballot questions that asked whether the city should join eight other communities in Ohio that originally opted out of a state fluoridation mandate in 1970 but have since reconsidered and voted to fluoridate.
Dr. Levi Hamilton, a Wilmington dentist who helped educate voters in November about fluoridation, said other dentists, physicians and pediatricians also vocally supported the initiative, which he believes resonated with voters.
"Practitioners really care about their community and their patients know that," he said.