Column: Fluoride Is Safe, Effective and Needed
The community water supply in Bradford, Vt., is no longer fluoridated due to a recent decision by the Water and Sewer Commission. The commissioners initially cited health and financial reasons as their reasons for discontinuation, but failed to consult any local dentists or public health providers before casting their votes, which affected approximately 1,500 to 2,000 people in town. After a public hearing in late November, the commissioners reaffirmed their initial decision this week.
As practicing dentists, we are concerned about the impact the discontinuation of fluoridation will have on Bradford residents’ dental health and urge the town to reverse it.
A recent study by the American Dental Association found that for every $1 invested in water fluoridation, approximately $38 was saved in dental treatment. Not only is fluoridating our community water supplies effective, it also saves taxpayers’ money. The annual cost of the fluoride itself for a community the size of Bradford is approximately $1,500, based on estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State public health officials offered to cover the cost of the equipment needed to continue fluoridation, according to a Nov. 28 Valley News article.
Community water fluoridation has been proclaimed one of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many other respected dental and health organizations worldwide support fluoridating public water because it is one of the most successful public health measures any community can take.
Fluoride is a trace nutrient that occurs naturally in water and foods, but the amount of fluoride in most drinking water supplies doesn’t provide the optimal level to strengthen growing teeth and help protect them against decay. The right amount of fluoride helps supplement diets, similar to Vitamin D in milk and iodine in salt.
Community water fluoridation benefits everyone, particularly those without access to regular dental care. It is one of the most effective ways to prevent dental decay in children, which is five times as common as asthma and seven times as common as hay fever in 5- to 17-year-olds.
Fluoridation benefits not only children, but adults as well. According to the ADA, adults are living longer and keeping their natural teeth, partly due to the benefits of fluoridation and the prevention of tooth decay. Water fluoridation has also been shown to help reduce root decay in adults, which means a decreased number of root canals and dental pain.
When used correctly, fluoride is a safe and effective way to help prevent and control cavities. While some may maintain that public fluoridation can have harmful effects, a critical review of the research does not support claims that the therapeutic use of fluoride at levels found in the United States is toxic or results in health problems. The ADA takes all health concerns seriously and found that community water fluoridation poses no health risk at the recommended level of 0.7 milligrams per liter.
Fluoride is needed regularly throughout life to protect against tooth decay, as stated in the Centers for Disease Control’s report “Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Dental Caries in the United States,” which also encourages using fluoride toothpaste.
We encourage people to ask questions and get the facts about water fluoridation. The website www.fluoridefactsnh.com, which is produced by the New Hampshire Dental Society, serves to inform the public and address questions about community water fluoridation.
Thomas Bacon, DDS, practices in Claremont; Brooke Blicher, DMD, in White River Junction; and Alpa Patel, DDS, in Lebanon. Fifteen other dentists from Bradford, Hanover, White River Junction, Norwich, Newport and Lebanon endorsed this position.