Fluoridated water: ‘for the greater good of all’ Another voice column


Special to the News

April 20

I am writing to address concerns on the fluoride issue. We the pro-fluoride of Hood River are urging people to vote No in May and Yes in November.

A lot of our citizens realize that fluoride is a good thing but they say things like, “Why can’t we just give fluoride tablets to the kids that need it?” “It is good for kids, but I don’t really need it.” “Why can’t you just educate people instead of a blanket fix?” I would like to comment on these concerns.

Most people do not realize that fluoride is not just for kids; fluoridation benefits Americans of all ages and socioeconomic status. Yes, it is important to children, to the development of strong healthy teeth. Children do not vote and are not knowledgeable about dental health. Yet, parents who don’t allow their children to have fluoridated water will affect their entire lives, because cavities in childhood may become root canals or extractions in adulthood. The anti-fluoride belief is held in the face of the facts that fluoridated water tastes the same, has no ill health side effects and does not interfere with any of our activities.

Fluoride for adults with root exposure helps not only sensitivity to hot and cold but also prevention of cavities on a much more susceptible surface than enamel. Fluoride benefits the elderly because the decrease of normal saliva as we age (or with many medications) increases the risk of cavities.

If a family is financially struggling, what goes out the window is the trip to the dentist — and how could they possibly afford fluoride tablets? Research clearly shows that supplements are unreliable because not everyone takes them (even when supplied). There is worldwide agreement that any plan which relies on home application or individual citizen compliance is not effective. Also, taking supplements, as an alternative to fluoridated water, does not help the rest of us decrease cavities and keep our restorative dental work lasting longer.

It may sound good to just say, “Let’s just educate,” but it is very naive. Education is, I believe, what we are doing. Our area has started, funded, organized and supplied over a half dozen oral health programs, free dental services, toothbrush and hygiene “giveaways” and cooperative Head Start and Oregon Child Development Coalition programs. The results of all this effort and expense has been only very modest drops in the decay rates at best. Education programs have been studied and found to be ineffective in decreasing cavities (British Dental Journal, October 2003). There simply is no magical, yet undiscovered plan which can improve dental health in Hood River other than fluoridation.

We are a society that does things for the greater good of all, for example, iodized salt, vitamin D fortified milk, Calcium enriched vitamin C and vaccines for kids. Goiter, rickets, chicken pox, polio to name a few, are diseases of the past, thanks to “the greater good of all.”

The question is whether you are really willing to sacrifice the majority of population of dental health in exchange for getting what you want — when the fluoride in the water does not cause harm to those who don’t want it.

Fluoride should not be a political football; it is a health issue best left to advisers like the Center of Disease Control, which recommends the optimum level of fluoride in our community water systems. I guess it comes down to whom you believe, the Centers for Disease Control (visit their Web site at www.cdc.gov) — which has brought us the epitome of scientific research evidence — or an empirical testimonial of Joe Blow.


Roseann McElheran lives in Maupin

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