Letter: Fluoridation Is Effective, Economic

Fluoridation Is Effective, Economic

To the Editor:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proclaimed community water fluoridation one of the best public health interventions of the 20th century. As future Vermont dentists, we strongly agree. Numerous studies have confirmed the tremendous impact fluoridation has made for millions of Americans. Children who grow up drinking fluoridated water are more likely to keep their teeth even 50 years later. Community water fluoridation costs less than $0.75 per person each year. Every dollar spent saves $38 in preventable dental costs.

The American Dental Association supports fluoridating community water supplies to prevent dental decay. Tap water is fluoridated to a level between .7 and 1.2 parts per million. At this level, there is no evidence of any harmful effects to children or adults. Children’s developing teeth are strengthened by fluoride, making them more resistant to decay. Both children and adults benefit from the topical effect of fluoridated water, which lowers the number of harmful bacteria on the teeth.

Studies suggesting that fluoride is neurotoxic have examined fluoride levels exceeding 15 parts per million, a level that does not occur in the United States. Our colleague Dr. James Gold (“Problems With Municipal Fluoridation,” Forum, Feb. 11) is correct that regular dental visits would be ideal to prevent tooth decay. However, for many Vermonters dental care remains tragically out of reach. Twenty percent of poor Vermont families report forgoing dental care for their children due to cost. Children in Vermont whose mothers did not attend college suffer untreated tooth decay at rates twice that of wealthier children. Vermonters who did not complete high school are three times as likely to have lost teeth by age 65.

In addition to cost, geographic barriers and a shortage of dentists contribute to the difficulty vulnerable Vermonters face obtaining dental care. The protection of fluoride prevents needless expense and suffering for these individuals. We must work toward improving oral health for all citizens; to that end, community water fluoridation remains the most immediate, effective and economic means to protect the teeth of Vermonters of all ages and incomes.

Robert Cauley and Lisa Simon