My turn: Sound science favors water fluoridation

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2007

Choice involves the anticipatory idea of several possible actions and reactions. Our current personal and community decision-making about the initiative to fluoridate Juneau's community water supply suggests this is critically so.

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With passionate views on both sides of the discourse, it is reasonable to ask, "How do I decide? What criteria shall I use?"

Given that fluoridation of our water system is a public health and personal issue, our considerations of the evidence-based science involved with these decisions are important for our families and community.

Just what "science" are we talking about? Are our deliberations based on evidence-based science, pseudoscience, sound science, or junk science? All of these terms are bantered across the divide. It appears clear to most scientists that evidence-based science is ever-evolving and can be depended upon for decision-making.

Definitions of these terms as used by the generally accepted scientific communities must be considered. Evidence-based science (sound science) is supported by a credible author with a science background, credentials, and (hopefully) not a huge ax to grind with the world. Studies are dated, peer-reviewed, published in acceptable scientific journals, and replicable by other scientists. There is clear differentiation as to human versus animal versus test-tube study. There is clear documentation as to science-controlled, randomized and statistically valid investigations over "anecdotal" stories or opinions.

Pseudoscience (also called "junk science") has less clear definitions and has been defined as conclusions that use low quality data such as testimonials, anecdotal information, and single case reports without statistical verification.

Why does this matter? Decision-making about fluoride in our water supply must have a base of credible science. Available publications and Internet communications contain both science-based information and pseudoscience (unsubstantiated opinions) that have minimal to no merit. It is critical that we read and choose carefully our sources upon which to rely. The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Public Health Service, American Medical Association, and American Dental Association represent credible sources. Juneau medical doctors and dentists work closely with their parent state and national professional organizations to provide the most accurate and science-based information and care for patients and the community.

Science-based evidence indicates that optimal water fluoridation is safe and is effective in preventing dental decay and adverse oral health. Erroneous and misconstrued pseudoscience taken out of context will not provide the information we need for decision making about optimal water fluoridation.

I encourage you to respect the scientific, evidence-based facts that support community water fluoridation. I will be voting yes on Proposition 2 and encourage you to vote yes on Proposition 2 on Oct. 2.

• Carolyn V. Brown is a medical doctor who has practiced medicine for more than 45 years and who lives in Douglas.

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