My turn: Science supports fluoride

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2007

As a dental hygienist, who has been practicing for 37 years, I know the benefits of water fluoridation. There is much misinformation about fluoridation. Web sites and agencies that provide scientifically proven accurate facts about fluoridation are the American Dental Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Medical Association.

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All water naturally contains fluoride. Fluoride is a natural element found in rocks, soil, in fresh water and in ocean water. Waters in and around the United States have natural fluoride levels that range from 0.1 to more than 12 parts per million.

The United States Public Health Service recommends water fluoridation. Fluoride when consumed by children through water fluoridation prevents decay during the tooth-forming years and by direct contact with teeth throughout life. Recent studies demonstrate that decay in adults is also reduced by fluoridation. Older Americans are especially susceptible to tooth decay because of exposed root surfaces and mouth dryness that may result from many medications. The most inexpensive way to deliver fluoride to all residents is through water fluoridation. When a community fluoridates its water, it adjusts the level of fluoride in the water to the optimal level for preventing tooth decay.

Since 1950, the ADA has endorsed water fluoridation as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay. In the U.S., approximately 170 million people benefit from water fluoridation. Nearly all tooth decay can be prevented when water fluoridation is combined with professional fluoride treatments, dental sealants and other fluoride products, such as toothpaste.

More than 60 years of research have shown that fluoridation at optimal levels does not harm people or the environment. The CDC has recognized fluoridation as one of one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. It continues to support fluoridation and works with state and local health departments and water districts to help ensure that this health benefit is delivered safely and effectively to the American public.

The AMA urges state health departments to consider statewide fluoridation.

The National Research Council released its report, "Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standard," on March 22, 2006. This study was not done on water fluoridation in community water systems. It was on fluoride concentrations in water that are much higher than normal, mostly from natural sources. The CDC's comment on this report stated that the current range for water fluoridation is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. and community water systems that have fluoride at these levels is safe and effective for preventing tooth decay. (Juneau's water is below these levels, so water fluoridation is necessary.)

Vice Admiral Richard Carmona, U.S. surgeon general from 2002-06, stated "Community water fluoridation continues to be the most cost-effective, equitable and safe means to provide protection from tooth decay in a community. A person's income level or ability to receive routine dental care is not a barrier to receiving fluoridation's health benefits. Water fluoridation is a powerful strategy in our efforts to eliminate differences in health among people and is consistent with my emphasis on the importance of prevention."

The surgeon general also recommends self-care practices such as brushing at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. He suggested that manufacturers label bottled water with the fluoride concentration to allow consumers to make informed decisions on fluoride intake.

When it comes to the costs of treating dental disease, everyone pays. Not just those who need treatment, but all of us - through higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes. For most cities, every $1 invested in community water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs. Through water fluoridation, communities can improve the oral health of their residents and save money for all of us.

The key points to remember about water fluoridation are these:

Fluoridation is safe.

Fluoridation benefits everyone.

Fluoridation is cost-effective.

You can obtain further information about community water fluoridation by calling your dentist or local or state health department.

In October, please vote to restore fluoridation to our city water supply.

• Marilyn Linsell lives in Auke Bay.

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