The current community debate need not be divisive. Agreement that every child should have an opportunity for dental health is the obvious common thread. How do we address the dental needs of children in our community, as well as honor personal choice for pure water in our public system?
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As reported in a recent Empire article, George Brown favors fluoridation because it benefits children whose families cannot afford dental care. This begs the question of how the dental needs for low-income families are currently being met - what is available outside of drinking fluoridated water.
The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium provides comprehensive free dental care, including preventive care, for all military and Alaska Native children. For these families, cost is not an issue.
Denali Kid Care is in place and available for children of low-income families who are not eligible for dental care through SEARHC. Are the local dentists cooperating in the Denali Kid Care program to maximize its potential? If not, why, and what can be done to encourage their participation? Could the funding used for fluoridation be used instead to offset the cost gap between the dental providers' regular fees and the Denali Kid Care benefit?
If these programs do not provide access to care, the problem certainly needs to be addressed. Receiving direct dental care provides the possibility for a child to develop a relationship with a dentist and hygienist that could influence their dental health for a lifetime. The passive consumption of fluoridated water does nothing to build this type of relationship, instill a pattern of hygienic dental habits, or deliver the necessary individualized treatment.
Once introduced into the water system, methods for removing fluoride, for household use, is difficult and costly. What programs are available to assist those whose medical history requires fluoride free water?
The jury has returned with some clear facts on fluoridation: Topical application is significantly effective; systemic intake is not effective; fluoridating our community water system is costly and poses an environmental risk; mass medication is not an acceptable answer to individual needs.
On a final note, enough cannot be said about educating ourselves on this important issue due to its effect on the health of our community. Having a speaker of Dr. Hardy Limeback's caliber visit our city, at no cost to us save his airfare, is remarkable. To have our medical community show minimal interest is equally remarkable, and questionable.
Former kindergarten teacher