'The science mattered'
September 26, 2017
. — With input from the dental community, water officials here voted 5-2 on Sept. 20 to resume water fluoridation for the utility's 606,000 water users.
The vote amended the utility's budget to authorize $250,000 for fluoridation equipment to supplement the local water to optimum levels recommended by the federal government, according to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority's website.
The Albuquerque area received fluoridated water from 1972 until 2011, when local officials "suspended the practice pending issuance of new federal recommendations on optimal fluoride levels," according to the website. It never resumed after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' announcement regarding fluoride levels in April of 2015, but, after the September vote, it is expected to resume within six to eight months.
The vote came after months of debate and public comment that included testimony from public health advocates, including dentists, who helped inform residents and water utility board members about water fluoridation's safety and benefits.
Dr. Mary Rose Twohig, president of the Albuquerque District Dental Society, said its members were involved in writing letters to board members, encouraging their patients to sign a petition in support of water fluoridation and speaking during public comment time at public meetings.
"When it came down to it, the endorsement of the ADA, American Medical Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many of the large organizations that support fluoride helped convince the board members that it was the correct choice," said Dr. Twohig. "The science mattered."
The water authority's website notes that the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Dental Association "urged the water authority to resume supplemental fluoridation for the sake of the community's dental health," noting it would be "especially beneficial for low-income and disadvantaged populations."
Dr. Tom Schripsema, executive director of the New Mexico Dental Association, said he met with water utility board members personally and also attended public meetings to show support for the public health measure.
"We're gratified that the water authority has returned to this best practice," he said. "So many in our area face significant financial barriers to receiving the dental care they need and preventing dental disease through optimal fluoridation will boost the entire community's oral health."
For more information about the ADA's endorsement of water fluoridation, visit ADA.org/fluoride