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Florida city continues fluoridation after '180'

June 17, 2019

By David Burger

Photo of Dr. Paramore
Dr. Paramore
Ocala, Fla. — The Ocala City Council unanimously passed an ordinance June 4 that will keep fluoride in city water after the 63-year-old practice was endangered earlier this year.

The city of 60,000 residents located in north central Florida had been fluoridating its water since the 1950s, according to a city council report.

But in March, Ocala's Utility Advisory Board recommended that the city council consider ending the addition of fluoride to city water. According to Dr. Johnny Johnson, a pediatric dentist and president of the American Fluoridation Society, the board's concerns regarded the efficacy of the fluoridation program.

Faced with the prospect of fluoridation ending, Dr. Johnson said, "everybody pulled together quickly," including local dentists who mobilized to ensure that the community, including the city council, were aware of the health benefits of community water fluoridation.

Dr. Johnson said the opinion of the city changed 180 degrees between March and June due to an outpouring of evidence and support for fluoridation from the community, including the Florida Dental Association.

In an April letter to Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, Florida Dental Association President Jolene Paramore advocated for the continuation of the city's fluoridation policy.
 
"In your area, budgetary restraints have been brought forth as an argument for not continuing the community water fluoridation program in Ocala," Dr. Paramore wrote. "Throughout 70 years of research and practical experience, the overwhelming weight of credible scientific evidence consistently indicates that fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective, safe and cost-effective public health measure to prevent dental decay and repair early tooth decay. For many people who live in small towns and don't have access to routine dental care, community water fluoridation provides some layer of protection to help fight dental caries. As you consider the issue of community water fluoridation, please keep in mind the long-term and wide-reaching benefits of this important public health program of the people of Ocala."

So Dr. Paramore, on behalf of the Florida Dental Association, was pleased with the outcome of the vote.

"The Florida Dental Association supports community water fluoridation and applauds the city of Ocala for continuing their fluoridation program," Dr. Paramore said after the council vote. "Our FDA member dentists, and in particular Drs. Johnny Johnson, Lee Anne Keough and Suzi Thiems-Heflin, along with David Keough, played a tremendous role in bringing this message forward and ensuring that the citizens of Ocala continue to benefit from this excellent public health measure. We recognize and thank them for serving as champions for Florida's oral health."

Dr. Richard A. Stevenson, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is vice chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention and said fluoridation is one of the "guiding principles" of the council and the ADA.
 
"I want to personally thank the City Council of Ocala for doing the right thing for their citizens," he said. "There is overwhelming evidence in the efficacy of fluoride preventing and reducing tooth decay. It is one of the most cost-effective ways of protecting the citizens of Ocala and all of Florida."

The decision by the council to continue its fluoridation practice was also hailed by Mark S. Lander, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Marion County.

"Our department is thankful for the city's recognition of the value and benefits of fluoridation," Mr. Lander said in a statement. "The updates to the city's fluoridation policy will bring innumerable health benefits to city residents. Fluoridation is the most cost-effective means of reducing tooth decay and is an ideal public health measure where everyone benefits; it touches all classes regardless of socioeconomic status. Oral health care has been identified through Marion County community health assessments as a priority issue."

Currently 77% of Floridians served by community water systems receive optimally fluoridated water, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The ADA has endorsed the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay since 1950.

For more information or resources about fluoridation, visit ADA.org/fluoride.