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Texas Dental Association-backed fluoridation bill signed by governor

June 27, 2019

By David Burger

Austin, Texas — Dr. Matt Roberts, a general dentist in Crockett, Texas, heard from other dentists that some water engineers in the state had been unilaterally turning off the fluoride in their community’s water supply, with the public or even some local government officials unaware.

So Dr. Roberts, chair of the Texas Dental Association’s Council on Legislative, Regulatory, and Governmental Affairs, helped lead an effort by the association to draft a bill that called for early notification whenever a community was planning to terminate fluoridation.

Dr. Matt Roberts
Dr. Roberts

The bill, HB 3552, prohibits water systems from permanently ending their fluoridation program unless written notice is provided to the customers of the system and state authorities concerning the termination at least 60 days before the termination.

It was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott June 2, and takes effect Sept. 1.

“We did it so we can rally dentists and citizens whenever a community is thinking about ending the practice of fluoridation,” Dr. Roberts said.

The bill received near-unanimous support from both the GOP-dominated state House and Senate, Dr. Roberts said, even though the Republican Party of Texas has “Banning fluoride from the Texas water supply” in its platform.

Dr. Roberts credited the dedication of the Texas Dental Association and its fluoride committee for drafting the legislation over a two-year period, as well as receiving advice from the ADA and talking to other states that have passed similar bills.

Tennessee was the first state to pass an early notification law, in 2012 and Missouri and New York also have a law.

Dr. Leon Stanislav, a general dentist in Clarksville, Tennessee, is chair of the ADA’s National Fluoridation Advisory Committee and was instrumental in helping pass the Tennessee law.

More than 20 water districts in the state had rolled back their fluoridation programs between 2005 and 2012, so Dr. Stanislav and others to brainstorm ideas on how to keep fluoridation advocacy strong, he said.

“We were always a day late and a dollar short,” Dr. Stanislav said about efforts to stop the termination of fluoride in their communities. “We often didn’t have fighting chance to know about it.”

Dr. Leon Stanislav
Dr. Stanislav
Now, the time required for public notice is to 30 days, thereby giving the public greater opportunity to express concerns regarding the elimination of fluoridation, Dr. Stanislav said.

There was some opposition to the bill when it was introduced, but Dr. Stanislav bristled at the notion from anti-fluoride activists that there was any kind of evil conspiracy behind efforts to add or continue fluoridation in communities. “If we have an agenda, it’s to put us out of business,” he said.

Dr. Stanislav praised the action pursued by Texas in getting the bill passed. He said that since the Tennessee law passed, in the seven years since only 13 water districts have ended their community water fluoridation in the state.

Follow ADA advocacy at ADA.org/advocacy.