Skip to main content
Toggle Menu of ADA WebSites
ADA Websites
Toggle Search Area
Toggle Menu
e-mail Print Share

Dentist at forefront in reversing antifluoridation vote in Tennessee

August 29, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Jonesborough, Tenn. – Fluoridation fared well in this town of about 5,300 in August, where leaders voted to reverse a decision it had made in February to end water fluoridation.

The change of heart from local aldermen who'd originally voted to cease fluoridation came in part because of the education outreach efforts of a group of area health professionals organized by the regional health department, which included Dr. Allen Burleson, a dentist in Jonesborough for more than 35 years.

Dr. Burleson said he became part of the public conversation about water fluoridation after he heard on the local TV news that the issue was under debate.

"This is a public water system and you have to do what's best for the public," he said.
Dr. Burleson attended local meetings to help inform residents and the town's Board of Mayor and Alderman about the safety and benefits of water fluoridation, sat for interviews with the local newspaper and TV news station on the topic and met regularly with other fluoridation advocates, including area physicians, pediatricians and other health care professionals, to discuss ways to educate the public and to correct misinformation about fluoridation some residents had gleaned from the internet. He and other members of the concerned group also sat down with alderman, in some cases, one-on-one to go over the facts.

It was these in-person meetings, Dr. Burleson said, that he believes ultimately changed their minds.

In the end, town leaders unanimously in August reversed a February decision to stop fluoridating its water supply, which serves about 13,000 customers in Jonesborough and surrounding areas, Dr. Burleson said.

"We had the science on our side — that made the difference," Dr. Burleson said.

The American Dental Association endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay. For more information about ADA's advocacy work when it comes to fluoridation, visit or contact Jane McGinley, manager of fluoride and preventive health activities for the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, by email at