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Spokane moving forward on possible adoption of community water fluoridation

City of more than 200,000 people has never fluoridated its water

November 11, 2020

By David Burger

Community Water Fluoridation Celebration 

Spokane, Wash. — Spokane, the largest city in Washington state to not fluoridate its water supply, is on the path to possibly starting the practice after the municipality’s city council decided to go ahead with a proposal that could add fluoride to its water supply.

“This is the biggest step forward ever in Spokane for water fluoridation,” said Elisabeth Warder, D.D.S., president of the Spokane District Dental Society, which, along with members of Washington State Dental Association, ADA, and local organizations including Smile Spokane and Better Health Together, petitioned the council to vote on the issue and make a decision. “It’s long overdue.”

Council acts

On Sept. 4, after myriad voices in support of fluoridation in a virtual meeting, the city council voted 6-1 in favor of signing a contract with the Arcora Foundation, which is funded by Delta Dental of Washington. Along with $1 million raised by Better Health Together and eight other local organizations, the Arcora Foundation will provide a $3 million grant to study, design and implement water fluoridation in the city.

 Dr. Elisabeth Warder
Dr. Warder
Leon Stanislav, D.D.S., chair of the ADA’s National Fluoridation Advisory Committee, praised the foundation’s grant in a time of widespread financial pressures.

"There is no greater time for preventive health care measures such as community water fluoridation than now in the wake of COVID-19,” Dr. Stanislav said. “While the science clearly supports community water fluoridation and cost benefits are a reality for the public, funding can be an issue in the current economic climate. I applaud the Arcora Foundation for their grant to help the citizens of Spokane enjoy the advantages of preventive dentistry before ever stepping foot in the dental office."

Chris Delecki, D.D.S., past president of the Washington State Dental Association, said the Arcora Foundation has been a great partner on this issue.

“The Arcora Foundation has been relentless in its efforts to expand community water fluoridation in our state, including the recent fluoride victory in Spokane,” Dr. Delecki said.

Proponents unite


Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs told ADA News that he expects fluoridation to be a reality in Spokane within four years.

Mr. Beggs said he is a “big proponent” of water fluoridation, noting that he is a civil rights lawyer and sees caries prevention as a civil rights issue.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids suffering from dental decay,” Mr. Beggs said. “Fluoride would change that. It’s a great public health intervention. The science on this is fairly straightforward. We have to follow the science.”

Johnny Johnson, D.M.D., president of the American Fluoridation Society, said that it was a team effort by committed stakeholders.

“This was a picture-perfect collaboration between the medical, dental, private sector, business owners, nonprofit dental providers, public health departments and others that made this happen,” Dr. Johnson said. “No one group can do it all. It takes a village, as you know. We need to recognize everyone in this win to help our members know that they are not an island.”

Smile Spokane and Better Health Together hailed the vote and said the city’s residents would reap the benefits if community water fluoridation is adopted, they said.

“We joined together because we knew this was the right thing to do for our community,” said Mike Wiser, a member of Smile Spokane, as well as vice president of planning at the city’s CHAS Health. “I’m relieved Spokane will join the majority of communities across our country that provide this public health benefit to their citizens.”

“Community water fluoridation is a perfect example of sound public policy,” said Alison Poulsen, executive director of Better Health Together. “It prevents health issues upstream, promotes equity for under-resourced communities, alleviates costs to the health care system as a whole — while still benefiting everyone in our community.” 

“This should not be a political issue, but a public health issue,” said Dr. Warder.

For more information on fluoride and ADA advocacy of community water fluoridation, visit ADA.org/fluoride.