So what does this busy pediatrician have to say about fluoride?
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Because I care for Juneau's kids, I'm writing to you and asking you to think about water fluoridation. It's important that we do it - on the Academy Pediatrics' Web site, guess what's the most chronic disease affecting children currently? Think it's asthma? Allergies? Nope - it's tooth decay - good ol' dental caries (five times more likely than asthma, seven times more likely than allergies).
And what are the factors that are contributing to the rise of caries? Why, it's the same problems we pediatricians in Juneau have been dealing with for years: Lack of knowledge (we're trying help that), and decline in oral health care, including lack of access to care. The last barrier is inadequate availability to preventative measures, such as water fluoridation or sealants.
But wait, there' been some negative things printed about it - and they wouldn't print it if it wasn't true, right? Let me put a few misconceptions to rest. I have read the National Academy of Science's report, I have read the Ft. Collins's Study that summarized all previous scientific and non-scientific information, and they all said the same thing. Yes, it's not perfect. Yes, more research needs to go on. But for now, it's the best we got and nothing has been proven to date cause harm. And fluoridation works.
So for the sake of those kids whose parents can't afford dental care, vote yes in favor of fluoridation. Heck, do it for any kids who are between the ages of 6 months and 8 years old and need the fluoride to develop a strong enamel matrix, and for their parents, who can't spend all day making sure they get the correct balance of food to get enough fluoride. Getting a topical treatment can repair but doesn't help make a strong enamel - help them. Vote for them.
I've seen kids suffer due to dental caries - and you think dental fluorosis is scary? Try losing several teeth, try failure-to-thrive. Or an abscess. Most of the previous misquoted information stated about injury, fractures, etc., is about fluoride at much higher levels than ever seen in Juneau's drinking water - to quote the National Academy of Science, "More evidence is needed to conclude that bone fractures occur at an appreciable frequency in a human population."
They describe skeletal fluorosis as rare and as something that cannot occur due to a lifetime exposure to fluoride at drinking water concentrations. They also state that the guidelines they were reviewing were the levels of how much fluoride was safe to add to the drinking water "to protect the public from dental caries [not whether or not to]. Guidelines for that purpose were established by the Public Health Service more than 40 years ago."
And that's in the first couple of pages - how come that's never been quoted before? Speaking of quotes, I'd like to end on two. One is from a great president, John F. Kennedy, "There's nothing to fear but fear itself." The other is from the Bible's Book of Matthew: "A life led in fear is a life half-lived."
Don't let them scare you into doing the wrong thing. Let your heart and mind lead you the right way.
Amy Elizabeth Dressel has been a pediatrician in Juneau for eight years. She was a professional advisor to the Juneau Fluoride Commission and is a member of Citizens Promoting Dental Health.
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